What is Life?
Schrodinger (Erwin)
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Cover Blurb

  1. The best of all book-titles is a question; and there is no doubt about the extent of interest directed perpetually upon this oldest question of all — the title of this book.
  2. Professor Schrodinger is a physicist, not a biologist. He has, however, provided beforehand against the automatic retort of those who cry that "the shoemaker should stick to his last." Both in physics and biology advances have lately been notable for the increasing importance allowed to the study of particles, of minute masses and minute forces; chemistry and physics have for some time met at this level; chemistry and biology already share common ground; in this book the physicist brings his particular aptitudes to the threshold of biology.
  3. It would be misleading to claim that his discussion of the riddle of life is a book of easy popularization. If it were, it would not be as valuable as in fact it will prove to be; but there is nothing in it beyond the comprehension of the informed man with a will to understand.
  4. It seems almost unnecessary to add that the great question with which this book is titled is asked, not for the sake of the physicist only but on behalf of the mortal mind which he (with all) inhabits. In this lurks a guarantee for the common reader that he has the right to read, and to expect to gain from, the physicist's way of putting the question.
    Preface – vii
  1. The Classical Physicist's Approach To The Subject – 1
    … 1. The general character and the purpose of the investigation.
    … 2. Statistical physics. The fundamental difference in structure.
    … 3. The naive physicist's approach to the subject.
    … 4. Why are the atoms so small?
    … 5. The working of an organism requires exact physical laws.
    … 6. Physical laws rest on atomic statistics and are therefore only approximate.
    … 7. Their precision is based on the large number of atoms intervening. 1st example (paramagnetism).
    … 8. 2nd example (Brownian movement, diffusion).
    … 9. 3rd example (limits of accuracy of measuring).
    … 10. The SQRT(n) rule.
  2. The Hereditary Mechanism – 18
    … 11. The classical physicist's expectation, far from being trivial, is wrong.
    … 12. The hereditary code-script (chromosomes).
    … 13. Growth of the body by cell division (mitosis).
    … 14. In mitosis every chromosome is duplicated.
    … 15. Reductive division (meiosis) and fertilization (syngamy).
    … 16. Haploid individuals.
    … 17. The outstanding relevance of the reductive division.
    … 18. Crossing-over. Location of properties.
    … 19. Maximum size of a gene.
    … 20. Small numbers.
    … 21. Permanence.
  3. Mutations – 32
    … 22. ‘Jump-like' mutations – the working-ground of natural selection.
    … 23. They breed true, i.e. they are perfectly inherited.
    … 24. Localization. Recessivity and Dominance.
    … 25. Introducing some technical language.
    … 26. The harmful effect of close-breeding.
    … 27. General and historical remarks.
    … 28. The necessity of mutation being a rare event.
    … 29. Mutations induced by X-rays.
    … 30. First law. Mutation is a single event.
    … 31. Second law. Localization of the event.
  4. The Quantum-Mechanical Evidence – 46
    … 32. Permanence unexplainable by classical physics.
    … 33. Explicable by quantum theory1.
    … 34. Quantum theory2 – discrete states – quantum jumps.
    … 35. Molecules.
    … 36. Their stability dependent on temperature.
    … 37. Mathematical interlude.
    … 38. First amendment.
    … 39. Second amendment.
  5. Delbruck's Model Discussed and Tested – 56
    … 40. The general picture of the hereditary substance.
    … 41. The uniqueness of the picture.
    … 42. Some traditional misconceptions.
    … 43. Different ‘states' of matter.
    … 44. The distinction that really matters.
    … 45. The aperiodic solid.
    … 46. The variety of contents compressed in the miniature code.
    … 47. Comparison with facts: degree of stability; discontinuity of mutations.
    … 48. Stability of naturally selected genes.
    … 49. The sometimes lower stability of mutants.
    … 50. Temperature influences unstable genes less than stable ones.
    … 51. How X-rays produce mutation.
    … 52. Their efficiency does not depend on spontaneous mutability.
    … 53. Reversible mutations.
  6. Order, Disorder and Entropy – 68
    … 54. A remarkable general conclusion from the model.
    … 55. Order based on order.
    … 56. Living matter evades the decay to equilibrium.
    … 57. It feeds on ‘negative entropy'.
    … 58. What is entropy?
    … 59. The statistical meaning of entropy.
    … 60. Organization maintained by extracting ‘order' from the environment.
  7. Is Life Based On the Laws Of Physics? – 76
    … 61. New laws to be expected in the organism.
    … 62. Reviewing the biological situation.
    … 63. Summarizing the physical situation.
    … 64. The striking contrast.
    … 65. Two ways of producing orderliness.
    … 66. The new principle is not alien to physics.
    … 67. The motion of a clock.
    … 68. Clockwork after all statistical.
    … 69. Nernst's Theorem.
    … 70. The pendulum clock is virtually at zero temperature.
    … 71. The relation between clockwork and organism.
  8. Epilogue. On Determinism and Free Will – 87
  9. Plates (facing page …)
    Ia. Paired chromosomes in pollen mother-cells of two species of Tradescantia
    Ib. Starved chromosomes in the pollen grains of Fritillaria pudica – 22
    II. Chromosomes of a body-cell of Drosophila – 23
    III. Twelve paired chromosomes in a pollen mother-cell of a lily Fritillaria chitralensis – 28
    IV. Resting nucleus of a salivary gland cell in the fly Drosophila melanogaster – 29


"Schrodinger (Erwin) - What is Life?"

Source: Schrodinger - What is Life?

  1. A scientist is supposed to have a complete and thorough knowledge, at first hand, of some subjects and, therefore, is usually expected not to write on any topic of which he is not a master. This is regarded as a matter of noblesse oblige. For the present purpose I beg to renounce the noblesse, if any, and to be freed of the ensuing obligation. My excuse is as follows:
  2. We have inherited from our forefathers the keen longing for unified, all-embracing knowledge. The very name given to the highest institutions of learning reminds us, that from antiquity and throughout many centuries the universal aspect has been the only one to be given full credit. But the spread, both in width and depth, of the multifarious branches of knowledge during the last hundred odd years has confronted us with a queer dilemma. We feel clearly that we are only now beginning to acquire reliable material for welding together the sum-total of all that is known into a whole; but, on the other hand, it has become next to impossible for a single mind fully to command more than a small specialized portion of it.
  3. I can see no other escape from this dilemma (lest our true aim be lost for ever) than that some of us should venture to embark on a synthesis of facts and theories, albeit with second-hand and incomplete knowledge of some of them—and at the risk of making fools of ourselves.
  4. So much for my apology.
  5. The difficulties of language are not negligible. One's native speech is a closely fitting garment, and one never feels quite at ease when it is not immediately available and has to be replaced by another. My thanks are due to … [… snip …].

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