The Inner Workings of Life: Vignettes in Systems Biology

Theinnerworkingssystems2Eberhard O Voit
Cambridge University Press, £16.99

It is rare these days to encounter a publication that prompts one to dip into it again and again. Eberhard Voit guides us through this complex subject with ease and clarity in a series of short chapters, each of which is introduced by a novel and witty heading. Each vignette is complete in itself and gives real insight into what might otherwise be difficult for the general reader to fully grasp.

This little text addresses the various aspects of systems biology in a lucid and intuitive fashion, leading the reader with ease into fields such as computer science, engineering and mathematics to illustrate how, with the power of computers, the holistic approach to biological investigation – and so-called 'big data' – is rapidly replacing the conventional hypothesis-based models.

One aspect of the book that particularly impresses is the inclusion of the history of the development of each topic, an example to first year university lecturers, who, in their determination to be up to date, often omit or skimp on this important dimension.

My only misgiving is the overuse of vernacular nomenclature, such as in chapter 15, 'Love Thyself and Fight All Others', which is unnecessary in a book aimed at the intelligent reader. However, this did not distract from my overall enjoyment of this book.

Dr Graham Godfrey CBiol FRSB

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