In 2010, scientists led by J. Craig Venter became the first to successfully create "synthetic life" - putting humankind at the threshold of the most important and exciting phase of biological research, one that will enable us to actually write the genetic code for designing new species to help us adapt and evolve for long-term survival. The science of synthetic genomics will have a profound impact on human existence, including chemical and energy generation, health, clean water and food production, environmental control, and possibly even our evolution.
In Life at the Speed of Light, Venter presents a fascinating and authoritative study of this emerging field from the inside-detailing its origins, current challenges and controversies, and projected effects on our lives. This scientific frontier provides an opportunity to ponder anew the age-old question "What is life?" and examine what we really mean by "playing God." Life at the Speed of Light is a landmark work, written by a visionary at the dawn of a new era of biological engineering.
©2013 J. Craig Venter (P)2013 Tantor
The author, the great scientific genius, J Craig Venter, has stepped through a portal and beckons us to follow him through to the other side. He has fulfilled his vision, but presents the human species, particularly the scientific community with a dilemma, if we follow him, we endorse and subscribe to the notion that the structure of a living cell responds to the same laws of physics and chemistry that govern the rest of the universe. Specifically, the genome of a cell can be programmed, resulting in not just a modified cell, but a new species, a unique living creature.
Mankind is a toolmaking species. We have only had the tool of the modern computer in J Craig Venter's lifetime, and he has made the most of it. His work has demonstrated that the only limiting factor in programming any particular genome is the current power of the computer. And no one doubts that we are only on the first page of the development of this tool. It stands to reason that at some point, we will have the computational power to reprogram a more complex genome than that of a single celled organism.
A scientist in an earlier age concluded that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe of that time period. And as we all know, he was attacked because it disturbed mankind's particular notion of it's special place in that universe. But that scientist, and all of the other scientists that preceded him and have followed him have only described what "is"', they have not created anything. For example (using a current example), a great scientist might describe that the universe is not only expanding, but also that this expansion is accelerating. It is a great discovery, worthy of the Nobel Prize, but it is only a description of what is happening, using modern tools of observation. The observation and the description of the discovery has created nothing new or unique.
But J Craig Venter fulfilled his vision and created something unique in the universe. I am afraid that this will not be appreciated in his lifetime.
This is a very interesting book from the standpoint that it documents a very historical event with the creation of synthetic life. This book provides a detailed history leading up to and then the aftermath of Dr. Venter and associates creation of the synthetic biology. The book is well written, but the content is very scientific and perhaps is more appropriate for scientist and those who have a strong scientific interest or understanding of Dr. Venters work. The performance of the narrator is very good, and even the content of the books is good for the right audience. My opinion is that this book is not necessarily for the average listener. The content is complex and was above my understanding. Over this book is, and will continue to be a very important historical record for the actual scientific creation of the first synthetic life.
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