The Equations of Life: how Physics Shapes Evolution by Charles S. Cockell, Basic Books, 2018
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I first became acquainted with the work of British astrobiologist Charles Cockell twelve years ago, when I wrote a highly favorable review of a discussion meeting issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which was co-edited by Cockell and entitled Conditions for the Emergence of Life on the Early Earth. So, it was with great expectations of something excellent that I read Cockell’s book The Equations of Life. Cockell did not disappoint me. He has written a superb book.
Cockell’s main thesis in this work is that biogenesis and evolution on Earth and elsewhere in the Universe is largely predictable based on the laws of physics and chemistry. He gives a number of physics equations that constrain the structural characteristics of various animals on Earth and would constrain life elsewhere where it may exist. Thus, he posits carbon as the only viable element central to the building of informational biopolymers on Earth and on other planets or moons. Water, which is...