The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms
by Mae-Wan Ho
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This book is not for the faint hearted! It requires an undergraduate level of thermodynamics, and some working knowledge of biology, and laws of relativity and quantum physics. The author has done her best to write this book to a general reader about physics and biology of life; a monotonous and tedious job to describe in a book of 250 pages. She is influenced by the work of celebrated physicist Erwin Schrodinger and his passion for understanding life. The reader can see Schrodinger's influence throughout this book. Chapter 2 to 6 deals with Schrï¿½dinger's concept in explaining how a living cell exports entropy in order to maintain its own entropy at a low level or near zero there by circumventing the constraints of Second law of thermodynamics.
In the second half of the book the author explores various physical and chemical concepts to show how nature keeps cellular entropy production to a minimum. First, the author discusses how the energy transductions in living cells occur, and she determines that heat transfer is not the major form of energy transduction. The biomacromolecules are setup within the cell to near solid state or liquid crystalline like state such that it promotes synchronicity and coherence through electric, electromagnetic and electro mechanical interactions, which are primary source for energy. Coupled electron transfer reactions and other cyclic process that occur in a nested space - time organization within the cell helps minimize entropy since, for a coupled molecular process the entropy production is zero.
Intermolecular dipolar interactions among membrane bound proteins/enzymes, and nucleic acids which act as biological semiconductor devices; and quantum tunneling operate in many electron and proton transfer proteins. DNA and RNA are large dielectric molecules that can sustain coherent excited sates. In chapter 8 - 10 the importance of coherent process that removes biochemical processes away from thermodynamic equilibrium by energy flow have been discussed. The operation of quantum coherence, a coherent state that maximizes both global cohesion and local freedom such that micro domains and nested compartments within the cytosol or nucleus or membrane right down to a single biomacromolecules all functioning autonomously doing different things and at different rates generating flow patterns yet all coupled together in supporting the cellular process. A high degree of coherence, coordination, compartmentalization and regulation of multiple biochemical reactions involving numerous proteins, enzymes, nucleic acids, carbohydrates and lipids is proposed as a compensating mechanism to minimize entropy. While the author does her best to bring everything in literature together to support a reasonable hypothesis, but the experimental evidences in support of these concepts operating in a cell is not very strong and hence it is some way to go for universal acceptance.
One important feature devised by nature in electron transfer reactions is a metal mediated reaction that has never been addressed in this book. These transfers are facile quantum chemical reactions where nature has used transition metals (with vacant 3d orbitals) to promote electron transfers between low molecular weight biomolecules that otherwise would be thermodynamically disallowed. Iron, copper and manganese perform key cellular reactions. Alkali metals such as sodium, potassium and calcium also participate in many ionic reactions that offer thermodynamic advantages to a living cell.
I found this author to be enigmatic since the book is heavily regionalized in its assertions. She refers to the scientific thought conveyed in this work as Western science throughout this book. Chapter 14 offers a very interesting discussion of entropy, and chapter 15 reminisces about the philosophy of life.
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- The Rainbow and the Worm: The Physics of Organisms
- Mae-Wan Ho
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- ISBN 10
- ISBN 13
- World Scientific Publishing Company
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