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Biology Books » General Biology » Cell & Molecular Biology
CD contents are worth hundreds of dollars, June 2, 2002
I'm an amateur biologist, and a professional computer software engineer and product reviewer. A keen interest in the mechanics of genetic expression has drawn me to the beautiful details of cellular mechanics. While this book is everything the other reviewers say (and are qualified to say) it is, let me weigh in on the accompanying CD, which is an area in which I can claim some expertise.
The vast majority of CDs bundled with textbooks are afterthoughts -- either an electronic copy of the text, or some lightly related adjunct materials, usually pulled from the public domain. MBotC is different. The CD is nothing short of breathtaking. A technical tour de force, this CD runs on both Mac and Windows, which is no mean feat. It leverages time-tested technologies such as Netscape, Java, and Quicktime to produce stunningly vivid presentations. It performs well, and is rock-solid stable.
Beyond flawless delivery, the content itself is brilliantly executed. This is largely original content developed for this book, and tied directly into the text chapter by chapter. You get narrated animations that show dozens of cellular processes in a way that catalyzes learning. Videos capture live microscopy showing ATP synthase rotors spinning, microtubules self-assembling, actin crawling, and mitosis mitoting. An image magnifier lets you browse photomicrographs in detail.
Most astounding of all is the seamless incorporation of a molecular viewer, the Chime Java browser plugin, which directly reads and interprets Protein Data Base (PDB) files and displays the models in interactive 3D. The CD includes hundreds of PDB models, including a wonderful reference library of amino acids, nucleotimes, lipids, and sugars.
The CD alone is worth hundreds of dollars, just in the labor expended to assemble material from labs around the world and organize it to fit the chapters of the text. I've used numerous of CDs promising to teach molecular biology, and nothing else comes remotely close to the quality and depth of this volume.
That you can buy the CD -- with a ten-pound book attached -- for [the price] is simply a miracle. It's a no-brainer for anybody remotely interested in cell biology. If you're one of them, you must buy this!
They keep getting better, August 24, 2003
In the past few years quite a few books on molecular biology and genetics have appeared, and all of these have been exceptionally well-written. Most have been updates of previous editions, and if compared with these, the most recent editions have displayed an enthusiasm and excitement that dwarfs their earlier editions. This book, now in its fourth edition, is an example of one of these, and I believe the reason for their increasing quality is the excitement that biologists are now feeling. This is due no doubt to the incredible strides that have been taken in biology in the last few years. Biologists are with complete justification very excited that they understand in greater detail what life is all about, and are looking forward to an even deeper understanding in the decades ahead.
As a non-biologist but one deeply embedded in bioinformatics and certain areas of computational biology, this book served my need to understand in greater detail the underlying biology behind these fields. It is a beautiful book, both from an aesthetic viewpoint and because of its content. The book reads more like a story than a textbook, but the information gain when reading it is considerable, with less entropy than what might be expected from such a deep subject with myriads of terms that must be understood before moving on to others. The author's approach to the book is well-organized, with many accompanying diagrams that illustrate the complicated processes and structures that can occur in the molecular realm. In addition, helpful summaries are put at several places in the book. There are no exercises in this book but there is a workbook that one can purchase separately.
Space prohibits a detailed review of such a large book, but some of the more interesting discussions in the book include: 1. The paragraph on the role of sex in bringing about horizontal genetic exchanges within a species. The thinking is that the genomes of modern eubacteria, archaea, and eucaryotes originated in three different "anthologies" of genes that survived from an ancestral pool in which genes were frequently exchanged. This hypothesis is tempting, argue the authors, since it would explain the fact that eucaryotes are similar to archaea in terms of genetic "information-handling" but more similar to eubacteria from a metabolic standpoint. Horizontal gene transfer has become a very important topic of late, due in part to the uproar on bioengineered foods. 2. The suggestion that eucaryotic cells originated as predators, pointing to the presence of mitochondria as one piece of evidence. 3. The entire chapter on proteins, but especially the discussion on protein folding, allosteric enzymes and allosteric transitions. The discussion on protein folding is qualitative but the authors give interesting insights on this topic. In answering the question as to why only a few of the 20^300 different polypeptide chains will be useful to a living organism, they point to natural selection, and the resulting conformations being stable due to its fine tuning. The extreme sensitivity of protein function to small changes in their structure has recently fueled speculation by religionists as being evidence of "intelligent design", but such speculations, even if true, will not improve the understanding of proteins, and can therefore be safely ignored from a scientific viewpoint. The authors do devote a short paragraph to the discussion of computational methods in the protein folding problem, and also discuss briefly the experimental difficulties in determining the conformations of proteins. They also give some of the mathematical details of steady state enzyme kinetics. 4. The discussion on the need for low mutation rates in order to have life. 5. The section on abnormally folded proteins and their relation to diseases, such as prion diseases. Prions have been a contentious issue of late, due to the issues with "mad cow disease" in Great Britain. 6. The section on the "RNA world" and the origins of life. The authors discuss the need in early cells for molecules to perform reactions that lead to the production of more molecules like themselves. From the standpoint of modern cells, polypeptides, they point out, can serve to be catalysts, but they emphasize that there is no known way in which this type of molecule can copy itself by the specification of another of precisely the same sequence. The talk about one theory, the "pre-RNA" world, as justification for the need for simpler compounds to act as template and catalyst for the synthesis of complementary RNA. 7. The section on heterodimerization and its use in "combinatorial control", the latter being a process in which combinations of different proteins control a cellular process. Although not discussed in this book, the mathematical modeling of combinatorial control and its role in signal transduction systems has taken on more importance in recent years. 8. The section on how genetic switches work and the role of operons thereof. 9. The phenomenon of "transcriptional synergy" in gene activator proteins. Here the transcription rate is higher when several activator proteins are working together than when any of the activators are working alone. 10. The discussion on how circadian clocks can be created using feedback loops in gene regulation. The authors describe an interesting experiment that produced a simple gene clock using techniques from genetic engineering. 11. The section discussing RNA interference, a topic that has taken on enormous importance lately, since using it allows researchers the ability to turn off the expression of individual cellular genes. Indeed pharmaceutical bioinformatics and the role of "in silico" molecular target identification makes use of the ability to "tune" phenotypes by using RNA interference for laboratory validation of the bioinformatic algorithms.
Amazing book, especially for the self-taught, April 2, 2006
This book is beautifully written and illustrated. It is everything a text book should be, especially for someone like me who wants to learn this on his own.
A typical problem with a book like this is that the first n pages will be very readable and then suddenly there will be an elbow in the learning curve and off the author goes into the esoterica that only the initiated can follow. Not here; the author takes you into very advanced material, but one step at a time, never pandering, never simplifying, but always sure to bring you along. It is like having your head peeled open and a picture of this incredible micro-universe poured in. It is like being programmed by the Matrix.
Further, and of course, the subject matter itself is incredible and awesome (both words used in their traditional sense) one is left with a helpless sense of wonder and enjoyment.
Rating: 3.4 | Added on: 27 Dec 2007
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