The oracle at Delphi posed a question conerning a boat: if, in time, every plank has rotted and been replaced, is the boat the same boat? Yes, the owner will say, the vessel is not its planks but the relationship among them. Similarly, Antoine Danchin argues in this provocative book, life itself is not revealed just by its components - DNA, ribosomes, genes, cells - but also by their relationships. By the end of 2001, almost 500 genome programs were completed or under way. Drawing upon what researchers worldwide are learning from the gene sequences of bacteria, plants, fungi, fruit flies, worms and humans, Danchin shows us how genomes are far more than mere collections of genes. They are the means of transmitting the system of relationships making up a living cell from one generation to the next. Genomes are codes that govern the construction, operation and survival of cells. "The Delphic Boat" shows us that life is both a complicated piece of chemical machinery that decodes genomes and a process that builds this machinery. The laws of physics or chemistry can only predict so much of this process.
To truly understand life, we must understand spatial and temporal relationships between molecules that make up the cell, and how these molecules are coordinated. Danchin persuades us that if we can reach this level of understanding of genomes, we will be able to resolve the major biological puzzle of the 21st century: the enigma of the living machine that creates the living machine.
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Number of pages: 384
Weight: 778 g
Dimensions: 242 x 158 x 32 mm
The long view--meticulous, informed, speculative--on what the genome revolution means. The cryptic title refers to the Delphic poser about whether a boat whose rotted planks have all been replaced is still the same boat: the answer is yes, because the quality of being a boat lies in the relationship of the planks. So it is with life, Danchin argues, which lies not in the DNA or the proteins they encode or the parts of the cell that translate the message; life is the relationships of the parts...A rich Gallic feast of ideas to stimulate and savor, while agreeing with the author that "there is still a great deal that is obscure in our understanding of life."
Danchin...reveals that scientific genome sequencing is only a first step in identifying the myriad genes that make up our 23 pairs of chromosomes. The author draws upon many different fields, from biology and genetics to information theory and literary studies, in his rich and multifaceted discussion of what scientists mean when they talk about a "genome.,."The book is fairly technical but well written...[and] aided by Quayle's masterful translation.
Danchin dispels the widespread misconception that scientists have laid hold of the keys to genetic power merely by transcribing the sequence of genes within the genome. His lucid analysis demonstrates that the genetic code functions not with the mechanical predictability of Newtonian physics but rather with the elusive suggestiveness of foreign metaphors...Danchin conducts intelligent amateurs surprisingly far into the central issues. This timely book offers hope that the rhetoric and hype of the antagonists fighting over the genome agenda will not drown out rational dialogue.--Bryce Christensen"Booklist" (12/01/2002)
Danchin provides an authoritative and impressively multidisciplinary treatment of many aspects of genomics, and his provocative thinking about the "raison d'etre" captured my interest. I suspect it will do the same for many readers from a large number of scientific disciplines, not only biological ones.--Axel Myer"Nature" (04/10/2003)