Life is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the known universe; but how does it work? Even in this age of cloning and synthetic biology, the remarkable truth remains: nobody has ever made anything living entirely out of dead material. Life remains the only way to make life. Are we missing a vital ingredient in its creation?
Like Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, which provided a new perspective on how evolution works, Life on the Edge alters our understanding of life's dynamics. Bringing together firsthand experience of science at the cutting edge with unparalleled gifts of exposition and explanation, Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe Macfadden reveal the hitherto missing ingredient to be quantum mechanics and the strange phenomena that lie at the heart of this most mysterious of sciences.
Drawing on recent groundbreaking experiments around the world, they show how photosynthesis relies on subatomic particles existing in many places at once while inside enzymes, those workhorses of life that make every molecule within our cells, particles vanish from one point in space and instantly materialize in another.
Each chapter in Life on the Edge opens with an engaging example that illustrates one of life’s puzzles - How do migrating birds know where to go? How do we really smell the scent of a rose? How do our genes manage to copy themselves with such precision? - and then reveals how quantum mechanics delivers its answer.
Guiding the reader through the maze of rapidly unfolding discovery, Al-Khalili and McFadden communicate vividly the excitement of this explosive new field of quantum biology, with its potentially revolutionary applications, and offer insights into the biggest puzzle of all: what is life? As they brilliantly demonstrate here, life lives on the quantum edge.
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Simply fascinating science
As this is a review of an audio book, the prize has to go to the narrator, Pete Cross. His is one of the most pleasant reading voices I have yet listened to - and important for a scientific work. He engages the listener with his smooth reading style, very good voice tone and timbre and has taken the trouble to pronounce scientific words clearly. His diction and pronunciation cannot be faulted and he makes the contents compelling and interesting. In addition, the book itself is an extraordinary read and I have subsequently purchased the paperback as well for annotation purposes.
This is a compelling story of how quantum physics has expanded into the field of biology. The authors have delineated the process of how it all happened by quoting studies and experiments and have made the concepts very clear for a science-loving non-scientist. Famous physicists such as Max Planck, Erwin Schrödinger and Richard Feynman ('What I cannot create, I do not understand') are given their place in history while modern experimental findings tell of mankind's further adventures into this minuscule world. Thermodynamics, tunnelling and entanglement are explained with clear examples, along with the mysterious way in which measurement affects behaviour in the quantum world, not a new concept, but puts it into context. We have so much to learn.
- Jacqueline B