“In a sense, this is all there is to the Universe! If no energy is ‘flowing’ – a colloquialism by which we mean ‘being transformed from one form to another’ – then nothing is happening at all. Here is the first step on the road to answering Schrödinger’s question – What is Life? Whatever it is, it is a process by which energy is transformed from one form to another”
Before I begin my book review I think I should introduce the writer first. Professor Brian Cox is one of my favorite scientists, not because he is the smartest but more to how easy it is for him to deliver complex science understanding into something much easier. He is a talented speaker, no matter how complex the matter he is delivering he is still able to enchant people.
I first knew Professor Cox from Sunshine. He was the advisor for the movie and he is also the one that inspired Cillian. Cillian was sort of copying him when he was playing as Robert Capa in Sunshine. I remember one interview where he clearly said that he even copied the way Cox clasps his hand when he is sitting. Cillian spent a lot of time with him so that he can understand more about physics. Prof. Cox is an easy going person, smart but still looks cool.
I have just seen this last series of Wonders about a month ago and I am fortunate to find the ebook version of the accompanying documentary. For each series of Wonders (Wonders of The Solar System, Wonders of The Universe and Wonders of Life), Prof. Cox always wrote the companion book. It’s nice to be able to see the documentary and read the book afterward because the book fills the holes in the documentary.
Brian Cox is a particle physicist, he is not a biologist, he has other biologists as his advisors while filming the documentary and writing the book. Through this book, Prof. Cox asks these profound questions, “What is Life? Where did it come from? Why does it end?” To answer that question, he explains how biological appearances both the tiny cell to the physical being are control by the law of Physics such as gravity, time , energy, etc. The easiest example is when he highlights why big animals can’t jump and why tree is never going to as tall as 1 km, everything connects to gravity. It really is interesting to read how he shares the wonders of biology through the law of physics.
I can easily see how he admires Darwin and his evolution theory, the book mostly shares about evolution and natural selection. The way he delivers his explanation is easy to understand and creates deep root that whatever I have read in the book, I can still remember it.
“The paramecium has no nervous system or brain, and yet it has a rudimentary sense of touch; when it bumps into something, it changes its behaviour. The biochemical mechanism underlying the paramecium’s touch response is known as an action potential.”
From the quote above, I can understand more about biology and the electricity that pass through our body as a way to carry information.
From this book, I can see that Prof. Cox is not only a scientist but also has a great literary ability. He can romanticize science. I honestly think he romanticize science way better than Crichton. Just read this quote to see what I mean:
“Found in the wet highland regions of the southeastern state of Victoria and on the island of Tasmania, the mountain ash groves are almost Tolkienesque. In February, the shifting mists fight a running battle with the weakening late summer Sun, rendering every frame of towering columns in unique light, a fidgeting artistry calmed by the fragrant wet wood and fast-damped reverberation of the forest. This is a land of giants. The evergreens will grow a metre in a good year, reaching heights in excess of 100 m during their 400-year lives before physics intervenes like an irritating council official in a high-visibility vest to ensure that the world does not become too magical.”
The book also shares a lot of beautiful images, from the amazing zoomed eyes of mantis shrimp to beautiful scenery of Mount Taal. He also provides diagram that can make anyone who read the book understand the complexity of science easier. He always uses good reference to all the theory but at the same he also shares his own opinion.
By reading this book, I learned more how to connect science. As we all know, there are three major science: Chemistry, Physics and Biology. I have been teaching chemistry for years and I often ignore the other science major. This book has changed the way I look at science. Everything connects and one can’t exist without the other.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves science.
“Given there are over half a trillion galaxies in the observable Universe, the idea that there are no other planets out there with webs of life at least as complex as our own seems to me to be an absurd proposition.”