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 forms. 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?
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A must read for the interested, literate nonscientist
- Irfan Khan
Top Tier Presentation
The author's concise, entertaining, and intelligent presentation of the material. And then Kevin Pariseau gave it some further propellant in his slick narration.
This is not one of those "memorable moments" presentations. Instead, it was a compelling and multi-layered treatise, building basic science first then expanding eloquently into the great questions under study, the main one of course being a discussion of how life might have emerged out of inorganic structure. I really enjoyed his explanation of the bioenergetics behind each hypothesis. On the other hand one must bear in mind that much of this material is speculative in nature due to the great gulf of deep time that lies between the emergence of life and the present moment.
The mighty mitochondrion, of course.
Yes, a rare breath of fresh air compared to a lot of books.
Kevin Pariseau took this brilliant material and made it smooth and enjoyable. I had to nick one star off a complete five star rating in all categories because of a few moments of redundant rambling that occurred here and there, but these interludes were rare.