Signs of Life applies the mathematics of order and disorder, of entropy, chance, and randomness, of chaos and nonlinear dynamics to the various mysteries of the living world at all levels. This book is an entirely new approach to understanding living systems and will help set the agenda for biology in the coming century.
Deep down, we all know that living things are profoundly weird. Santa Fe Institute scientists Ricard Sol and Brian Goodwin show us the truth in Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology
. Chaos theory and the life sciences are a natural combination, but it's still a wonder how fresh and intuitive the material is in their able hands. Copiously illustrated with drawings, tables, and photographs enriching the text, the book will appeal to all sophisticated readers with an interest in the larger themes of biology--major players such as evolution, development, and inheritance. The authors have carefully segregated the toughest math in sidebars, but the main body of text is still not for the faint-hearted. Chaos and complexity is innately math-heavy, and hard-core mathphobes will have to make do with skimming; still, even the innumerate will find the prose charming and engaging:
The idea that a random event can change history has been a great source of inspiration for both scientists and writers alike. We live in a universe with strong laws and much contingency. In our search for the laws of complexity we often find islands of randomness in an ocean of regularity, like the island of trickery, home of games and gambling, found by the travelers in Gargantua and Pantagruel.
With writing like this interleaved between the tables and formulas, the reader finds it easier to stay on track, and the rewards of improved understanding are exquisite. Sol and Goodwin nimbly present a necessarily complex subject to a wide audience; Signs of Life ought to become a classic among the scientifically literate. --Rob Lightner