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Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  161 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
How does a single-cell creature, such as an amoeba, lead such a sophisticated life? How does it hunt living prey, respond to lights, sounds, and smells, and display complex sequences of movements without the benefit of a nervous system? This book offers a startling and original answer.

In clear, jargon-free language, Dennis Bray taps the findings of the new discipline of sy
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published May 26th 2009 by Yale University Press
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Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wetware: A Computer in Every Living Cell (Dennis Bray, not Rudy Rucker) is a short clearly guided tour on the analogies between biology and computing. Bray walks the reader through the protein-driven algorithms that generate complex behavior even in single-celled organisms without nervous systems, biological sensory mechanisms, cellular communications, and the basics of neurons.

The book raises thought-provoking questions - how much is computing merely a familiar analogy like clockwork in Descar
Anthony Sebastian
Jan 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
From B&N Synopsis:

"In clear, jargon-free language, Dennis Bray taps the findings of the new discipline of systems biology to show that the internal chemistry of living cells is a form of computation. Cells are built out of molecular circuits that perform logical operations, as electronic devices do, but with unique properties. Bray argues that the computational juice of cells provides the basis of all the distinctive properties of living systems: it allows organisms to embody in their intern
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
This is an excellent introduction to systems biology. No prior knowledge or interest required. Readers will come away understanding what it means to say that "life computes", and terms like "protein nanomachines" will make perfect sense. If you don't think "wow" at least once while reading this, you have absolutely no imagination.
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
The thesis of this book by Braid is courageous but potentially brilliant: many of the attributes that we associate only to high-level organisms (which, to put them into one, are the capacity of creating an internal image of the external world) are actually present also at single cell level - in this liquid computational processing environment called wetware.
If you can excuse the fact that the style of Braid is boring, I guess partly because of the intrinsically hyper-descriptive character of bio
Fil Krynicki
May 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
If I was reviewing this book for its quality as popular science, I would give it two stars. The writing is often too complicated, introducing new terminology for the sake of an example and instead leaving the reader confused as to what a particular scientific experiment is. Furthermore, the majority of the educational material of the book is introduced in the first half, the second half being an overly-long treatment of minute examples of previously-introduced concepts.

That being said, I review
David Rubin
Jan 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
If you have studied biology sometime in the past and would like to know some of what is happening in the world of academic biochemistry today, this is the book for you. Written for us laypeople, Dennis Bray takes us into the world of single cell animals and bacteria, and later into the multi-cell and even human world. Scientists are learning more about cell chemistry every day -- too much for us to keep up with. Yet the complex mechanisms and their functions are fascinating and the author's rend ...more
May 11, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science
The title and the foreword of the book were promising. The computational capabilities of cells are now under a wide research program, and this book promised to be a good and enhanced state-of-the-art. However, the book is full of old-fashion biology prejudices. For example, the author states in a reiterative fashion that cells are not to be equalled by any "artificial" machine simply because cells have more possible states. Author is not aware of the digital and analogical computers difference, ...more
Nikolai Kim
Apr 12, 2013 is currently reading it
Well, I was expecting a flight of genius, something about bio-mimesis and its difficulties as developers encounter something akin to cellular consciousness. However, I have yet to see it. So far, it's plodding and unhelpful. The question of why synthetic biology might differ from electronic or chemical processes hasn't been addressed as yet.

I don't mean whether a microbe knows whether its name is Joe or Frank. But isn't it possible that bacteria have a sociobiological behavior pattern? Or a sym
Nov 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This book is clear, readable and sticks to science. Where he has ideas, he's very careful to qualify them by saying they're not proved, and well, cells aren't conscious sentient beings.

They do make for great complex chemical feedback loops, though.

The problem I have with this book is that it's too safe. The science he mentions isn't stretching the limit or even saying anything you wouldn't get out of a college biology textbook -- he's clearly got a scientist's perspective, but after reading scie
Chad Tronetti
Jul 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Bray paints a vivid and detailed picture of the biological algorithms and circuitry ingrained in the almost infinite complexity of life. It is here that we see the computational pre-programmed adaptability that James Shapiro refers to as "Natural Genetic Engineering". Although Bray still seems intent on waving that Dariwinian magic wand that I have always found to be at the apex of intellectual laziness, it is still refreshing to see the active logical forward-looking undercurrents of biological ...more
Jan 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I studied biology as an undergrad and continue to do research in the field. This books was awesome. Easy to read and not to scientific but instead asked (and tried to offer insight on) philosophical questions relating to life. It talks how cells are very similar to basic machines but humbly concedes that life is driven by a "force" that we still do not understand; no matter how life-life machines get, they still won't be alive. Highly recommend it as it introduces an emerging and very sophistica ...more
Sep 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
A compelling comparison of biological systems and computers focusing on the mechanisms that enable life, communication, and sentience. Dennis Bray does an excellent job at explaining complex concepts in simple, yet vivid language. He has an ability to crystalize thoughts and present arguments clearly and succinctly. His use of metaphor comparing the life of a cell to the programmed computation of a machine is interesting and removes some of the mystery behind how these complex systems behave.
Mark Gomer
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: alex-r, s-b-cel, 2016-r
Didn't make as much contact with theoretical computer science as I was hoping, but still lots of good stuff. The explanation of how protein interaction networks can manifest transistor-equivalent components (as well as basic logic gates) was enlightening. Primary takeaway: single-celled organisms, with their "nervous systems" made of protein interaction networks, already deserve the intentional stance.
Michal Paszkiewicz
Oct 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book that has let me see cells from an entirely new perspective. It was easy to read, while it also included a lot of depth and details, satisfying my curiosity. I particularly enjoyed learning about hydra - the actual living tiny animals. When I have a good microscope, I will need to find one.
Jun 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
After seconding the other positive remarks, I will add that the book outlines many fascinating phenomena, for example about protozoans, that are hard to extract from the ponderous tomes we are accustomed to slogging through. Really, you may never think the same way again about single-celled organisms.
Oct 28, 2009 marked it as to-read
This is one of those books that I've checked out of the library and started to read with great interest then stopped.... I will be back.

I found the following interview on the net
Diego García Bustos
Jun 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Cuando sea más instruido en el maravilloso mundo de las células haré una reseña más responsable.

Aug 23, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: science
Seems like a very good book about amazing computational-like processes at the cellular level.
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
I have very little knowledge of cell chemistry of biology, so for me this book was a nice introduction into these subjects.
Nov 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished
A good, though basic, description of the forthcoming revolution in genetic engineering and how it will change our lives.
J. D.
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is a rewarding read. Its speculation about degrees of awareness call to mind Daniel Dennett's "Consciousness Explained". I can't recommend Dennis Bray's book highly enough.
Scott Daugherty
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“So I did indeed set out, as John Steinbeck says in his gavels with Charley, "not to instruct others but to inform myself.” 0 likes
“I described living cells as being crammed full of protein molecules. Acting individually or in small assemblies, they perform reiterated molecular processes that can be regarded, I argued, as a form of computation. Moreover, large numbers of proteins linked into huge interacting networks operate, in effect, like circuits of electrical or electronic devices. Networks of this kind are the basis for the animate wanderings of single cells and their ability to choose what to do next.
Here I have broadened the view to encompass multiple cells - 'societies' of cells. Through a variety of strategies - including diffusive hormones, electrical signals, and mechanical interactions - the computational networks of individual cells are linked. During evolution, cells acquired the capacity to work together in social groups; it became advantageous for most cells to become highly specialised. Liver cells, muscle cells, skin cells, and so on abandoned their opportunities for unlimited replication. They began the communal expansion of interlinked abilities that led to the plants and animals we see around us today. But the basis of this diversification of cell chemistry was yet another form of computation - one that operates on DNA. Control mechanisms, again based on protein switches, created extensive but subtle modifications of the core genetic information.”
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