Life at the Speed of Light

From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life

By J. Craig Venter
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670025404, 240pp.)

Publication Date: October 17, 2013

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Compact Disc, Compact Disc, MP3 CD

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Description

The renowned scientist and author of A Life Decoded examines the creation of life in the new field of synthetic genomics

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.




About the Author

J. Craig Venter is best known for sequencing the human genome. He is the founder, chairman, and CEO of the J. Craig Venter Institute, a not-for-profit research organization dedicated to genomic research. He is also the founder and CEO of Synthetic Genomics, Inc., as well as the author of A Life Decoded. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees, including the 2008 United States National Medal of Science, and twice been named one Time's 100 most influential people. He lives in La Jolla, California. Visit jcvi.org.




NPR
Friday, Oct 25, 2013

In his new book Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, Craig Venter writes of the brave new world synthetic biology may some day deliver: from consumer devices that print out the latest flu vaccine to instruments on Mars landers that analyze Martian DNA and teleport it back to Earth to be studied�"or recreated. More at NPR.org

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Praise For Life at the Speed of Light

“Life at the Speed of Light provides an important look behind the hyperbolic headlines that often accompany synthetic biology, a guide to the future of life from one of the scientists helping to create it."
~Emily Anthes, The Washington Post
 
"When scientists finally succeed in transmitting to another galaxy the digital instructions for building a living organism, they will rely on science that Venter has pioneered.... Readers will thank Venter for an insider’s perspective on epoch-making science."
~Booklist
 
"A fascinating glimpse at a scientific frontier."
~Kirkus Reviews
 
“Craig Venter is a singular individual... at once inheritor of molecular biology’s prior triumphs and the wellspring of its future…He compellingly depicts his diverse research as a concerted effort to shuttle biology between the material and the digital worlds…a gripping tale and welcome antidote to dry materials and methods sections that make such sagas feel disembodied and inevitable.”
~Science
 
"Spellbinding stories from the frontiers of genomics.... Venter instills awe for biology as it is, and as it might become in our hands."
~Publishers Weekly
 
"[A] remarkable book."
~Scientific American
 
"A great read."
~Ricki Lewis, PhD, PLOS.org
 
“One of the world's leading scientists delivers a history of molecular biology and its many ramifications depicted as it has been and will continue to be, a creator of the golden age of modern biology. His style is that of a dispatch from the front, urgent and engaged, as only a participant could write it, and the best of its genre since James D. Watson's The Double Helix.”
~Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
 
“In 1943 Erwin Schrödinger asked the question “What is life?” Craig Venter decided to find out. The first step in understanding something is to take it apart. The next step is to put it back together. Finally, prove that you haven’t neglected anything by building it yourself from scratch. In this articulate, precise, and uniquely first-person report from the front lines between biology and technology--commendably addressing the role of proteins as well as the nucleotides that code for them--Craig Venter sheds new light on Schrödinger’s question, while explaining how his own pioneering work reading and writing genetic sequences between living cells and computers is enabling life as we know it to take the first steps toward becoming something else. A landmark account.”
~George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral and Darwin Among the Machines
 
Life at the Speed of Light takes you to the frontier of science to explain the exciting potential of synthetic biology.  Craig Venter, one of our most vivid and iconoclastic scientists,  weaves the history of our understanding of life with his personal journey as one of the key scientists in decoding the human genome, and now one of the leaders of research into programming DNA and even making synthetic living organisms.   It could prove to be one of the most important technologies of this century.”
~Nathan Myhrvold, co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and former Chief Technology Officer of Microsoft
 
“Humanity is entering a period of radical transformation and one reason is due to Craig Venter's research in creating new life forms based on computer designed synthetic DNA.  Life at the Speed of Light is his beautifully written, powerful and persuasive story on how DNA information and computers will blend in the coming singularity, that watershed in the evolution of humanity beyond which amazing new possibilities for life, society and everything we care about will emerge.” 
~Ray Kurzweil, author of How to Create a Mind and The Singularity Is Near

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