M-W Ho begins this book with the question "What is Life?" and then states that the purpose of the book is to "keep the question alive". I believe he has creatively combined some of the deep intricies of physics (thermodynamics and quantum theory) with some fundemental biologic observations to establish an excellent framework for thinking about the nature of life. His descriptions of thermodynamics and quantum theory depend more on intuition than mathematics, and thus are accessible to non-speacialists. M-W Ho addresses observations in the atomic world, molecular world, cellular world up into the world of consciouness and civilization. This book has provided much "food for thought" concerning the deep issues of "Life" at many levels.
This book is not for the faint of heart. While I made it through A Brief History of Time, and The Elegant Universe with only a few major hiccups, The Rainbow and the Worm was tough going. I'm a physician, not a physicist, and my college level calculus is very rusty. Staring down pages of equations was not easy. That being said, this book repeatedly caused me to gaze off into space, absorbed in a totally new way of looking at an old phenomenon. I can't look at living organisms the way that I did before, and I'm indebted to Mae-Wan for this. Scientists are zeroing in on life, and while they strip away myth and mystery, they are replacing them with levels of awe at the complexity and wonder of the living world around us. Despite Ho's failure as a writer that is able to popularize difficult concepts, she is good enough to repeatedly inspire "Ah hah!" in anyone that takes the time. Finally, I find it interesting that the first two reviewers on Amazon.com referred to Mae-Wan as a male. It robs the book of a bit of its flavor to work all the way through it not realizing that such intense and creative thought is female in origin.
While I admire the enthusiasm the author I was shocked by the sloppy physics.His arguments for coherent electromagnic interactions within the lossy tissues of an organism make no sense.His knowledge of quantum mechanics is,at best,that of a diletant.No doubt he has read a great deal ,but given the large number of misstatements and errors, I doubt that he has understood more than a small fraction of the serious material.On the basis of the excellent reviews of the book,(before actually reading it myself)I recommended it to two friends (physicists) who bought it. Both are angry with me.Having read it I can not recommend it to anybody.