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Raghuveer Parthasarathy

Feb 15, 2022

So Simple a Beginning

How Four Physical Principles Shape Our Living World

Princeton University Press 2022

The form and function of a sprinting cheetah are quite unlike those of a rooted tree. A human being is very different from a bacterium or a zebra. The living world is a realm of dazzling variety, yet a shared set of physical principles shapes the forms and behaviors of every creature in it. So Simple a Beginning: How Four Physical Principles Shape Our Living World (Princeton UP, 2022) shows how the emerging new science of biophysics is transforming our understanding of life on Earth and enabling potentially lifesaving but controversial technologies such as gene editing, artificial organ growth, and ecosystem engineering.

Raghuveer Parthasarathy explains how four basic principles—self-assembly, regulatory circuits, predictable randomness, and scaling—shape the machinery of life on scales ranging from microscopic molecules to gigantic elephants. He describes how biophysics is helping to unlock the secrets of a host of natural phenomena, such as how your limbs know to form at the proper places, and why humans need lungs but ants do not. Parthasarathy explores how the cutting-edge biotechnologies of tomorrow could enable us to alter living things in ways both subtle and profound.

Featuring dozens of original watercolors and drawings by the author, this sweeping tour of biophysics offers astonishing new perspectives on how the wonders of life can arise from so simple a beginning.

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