by Carl Zimmer
“Stories that both dazzle and edify… This book is not just about life, but about discovery itself. It is about error and hubris, but also about wonder and the reach of science.”
—Siddhartha Mukherjee, New York Times Book Review
We all assume we know what life is, but the more scientists learn about the living world—from protocells to brains, from zygotes to pandemic viruses—the harder they find it is to locate life’s edge.
Carl Zimmer investigates one of the biggest questions of all: What is life? The answer seems obvious until you try to seriously answer it. Is the apple sitting on your kitchen counter alive, or is only the apple tree it came from deserving of the word? If we can’t answer that question here on earth, how will we know when and if we discover alien life on other worlds? The question hangs over some of society’s most charged conflicts—whether a fertilized egg is a living person, for example, and when we ought to declare a person legally dead.