The Vital Question

The Vital Question

Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life

eBook - 2015
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Why is life the way it is? Bacteria evolved into complex life just once in four billion years of life on earth-and all complex life shares many strange properties, from sex to ageing and death. If life evolved on other planets, would it be the same or completely different?In The Vital Question, Nick Lane radically reframes evolutionary history, putting forward a cogent solution to conundrums that have troubled scientists for decades. The answer, he argues, lies in energy: how all life on Earth lives off a voltage with the strength of a bolt of lightning. In unravelling these scientific enigmas, making sense of life's quirks, Lane's explanation provides a solution to life's vital questions: why are we as we are, and why are we here at all?This is ground-breaking science in an accessible form, in the tradition of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel.
Publisher: New York :, W. W. Norton & Company,, 2015.
ISBN: 9781847658807
Characteristics: text file,rda
1 online resource
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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rhodo86
Jul 03, 2016

Found the book difficult to follow and had to read it slowly and refer to glossary often but all seemed worthwhile. It was an eye opener for me to learn about the relation between energy and living. This was not a typical text book and contained more questions than answers. Wonder how the author's origin of life theory will stand the test of time.

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bluesky60
May 13, 2016

This was the third Nick Lane book I've read. It's difficult territory but he tries to make the going easier. This is serious science writting but with a light touch. My under-graduate degree was zoology and I still found this book full of things I did not know. It's full of excellent biology as well as addressing one of the big science questions "how did life on Earth start ?". Fully recomend this book but it is only for the interested reader.

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JohnAPollack
Dec 13, 2015

This is an interesting, but challenging, book. It took me quite a while to get through, as it delved beyond my high school chemistry. I'd call it evolutionary biochemistry. The author made a real effort to simplify his explanations and provide diagrams, but I still felt like I wasn't getting some of his arguments. On the positive side, it provided a really different perspective than most of contemporary biology, with its emphasis on physiological processes rather than information storage in genetic material.

j
JLMason
Dec 01, 2015

This book is a significantly more challenging read than Lane's previous book on the 10 great inventions of evolution. The reader should have at least some high school chemistry (and remember it!) to best appreciate the arguments put forth. Lane delves deep into cell chemistry and composition to explain how complex life (eukaryotes) evolved and to postulate that if it evolved elsewhere in the universe it would need to be similar in structure due to restrictions imposed by chemistry and energy transfer.

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StarGladiator
Sep 11, 2015

This looked like a mighty interesting book, but I couldn't go farther than page 6, where the author, Lane, wrote an appalling mischaracterization of the great scientist and thinker, Lynn Margulis - - a very cheap shot for no justifiable reason.
And while this review should have been about evolutionary cell biology, instead allow me to set this author straight: never have I read anything by Dr. Margulis, or either of her two sons with Carl Sagan, which was anything but factual information, factual data and intelligent questions regarding the events of 9/11 - - something this author might attempt to ask should he ever remove his head from his posterior! When Michio Kaku sounds like the world's biggest donkey's rear talking nonsense about the global economic meltdown [obviously he knows nothing about finance, economics, nor is a certified fraud examiner] or Neil deGrasse Tyson makes idiotic comments about Monsanto's GMOs [Tyson did qualify and retract those remarks later] it show that scientists should keep their bloody mouths shut about subjects they are completely ignorant of, or at least attempt to learn something before they speak!

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dano62
Jun 19, 2017

(Not quite on the topic, but interesting):...Could there be a subconscious connection between the modularity of proteins and cells, and our sense of aesthetics? Our eyes are composed of millions of photoreceptor cells, rods and cones-each receptor switched on or off with a ray of light, forming an image as a mosaic. This is reconstructed in our mind's eye as a neuronal mosaic, conjured up from splintered features of the image-brightness, colour, contrast, edge, movement. Mosaics stir up emotions in part because they splinter reality in a similar way to our minds. Cells can do this because they are modular units, living tiles, each one with its own vital place, its own job, 40 trillion pieces making up the wonderful three-dimensional mosaic that is the human being. (page 237-8)

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