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The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and…

The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life

by Nick Lane

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214754,496 (4.29)4
  1. 00
    In Search of Cell History: The Evolution of Life's Building Blocks by Franklin M. Harold (stellarexplorer)
    stellarexplorer: These are complementary books, Lane more focused on energetics and Harold on cellular evolution.

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To explain the mystery of how life evolved on Earth, Nick Lane explores the deep link between energy and genes.

The Earth teems with life: in its oceans, forests, skies and cities. Yet there’s a black hole at the heart of biology. We do not know why complex life is the way it is, or, for that matter, how life first began. In The Vital Question, award-winning author and biochemist Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientists.

For two and a half billion years, from the very origins of life, single-celled organisms such as bacteria evolved without changing their basic form. Then, on just one occasion in four billion years, they made the jump to complexity. All complex life, from mushrooms to man, shares puzzling features, such as sex, which are unknown in bacteria. How and why did this radical transformation happen?

The answer, Lane argues, lies in energy: all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a lightning bolt. Building on the pillars of evolutionary theory, Lane’s hypothesis draws on cutting-edge research into the link between energy and cell biology, in order to deliver a compelling account of evolution from the very origins of life to the emergence of multicellular organisms, while offering deep insights into our own lives and deaths.

Both rigorous and enchanting, The Vital Question provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, and indeed, why are we here at all? ( )
  fredjryder1946 | Jun 19, 2016 |
Very difficult reading, even for people with a better than average science background. I only made it through the Intro and part of Chapter 1. ( )
  cohenja | Mar 23, 2016 |
He describes his writing not as "popular science" but "accessible science", but even that is a pretty strong claim. A random paragraph yields these technical terms: eukaryotes, chimeric, phylogenetic, endosymbiont, prokaryotes, archaea. I have a vague idea about some of those, but I would say the reader needs at least an A-level if not a first degree in biochemistry to really get the message. That said, it is mostly written in an engaging way and I managed to grasp some key points: e.g. The Miller Urey experiment ( Lightning flash through primordial soup), originally proposed by Darwin, was a bit of a dead end. DNA is important but has rather taken over the research agenda in recent decades. The important thing is how energy flows through the living world. Likely origin of life is in thermal vents on the sea bed, but not the popular black smokers, alkaline thermal vents.By coincidence Lane was interviewed on Radio 4 just as i was reading this; that helped a lot to get his overall message. I finished up with some regret, skipping much of the second half ( )
  vguy | Feb 27, 2016 |
The great ability of Nick Lane is the capability of taking advanced level biochemistry and explaining it to the layperson like me. I thoroughly enjoyed this book looking as it does on the very origins of life on earth and life on a quantum level. Keep pushing the protons! ( )
  prichardson | Feb 14, 2016 |
You are a proton pump! The most exciting book of 2015. ( )
  jefware | Jan 6, 2016 |
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