The Arrival of the Fittest by Andreas Wagner

This science book, which explains thoroughly and clearly the depths of evolution and the wondrousness of the scale of what is going on around us constantly, was a gift from my wife. She makes a very welcome and kind habit of buying me books that I wouldn’t choose myself and this is one of them.

It is very well written indeed. There are graphs and diagrams and, for someone with very limited knowledge of science like me, it was at times hard going. I did not retain all the detail, it is safe to say. But the author has that great gift for finding metaphors and other ways of illustrating his points. He compares the number of possible genetic chemical reactions to a vast library, unimaginably vast. He also explains the  concept of the hypercube, which is a cube with millions of corners, where 3 ‘sides’ connnect.

The book explains how innovation happens in evolution. It is an incredible story. The book returns at the end to the ancient philosophical question – does mathematics describe reality as it is, independently of humanity, or is it invented by humanity? Galileo said “Mathematics is the language in which God wrote the universe”. Modern biochemisty means we can see the mathematics in the fundamentals of our existence, to an astonishing degree. But the question remains.


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