The Vital uestion PDF ´ The Vital ePUB ↠

The Vital uestion PDF ´ The Vital ePUB ↠

The Vital uestion ❮PDF / Epub❯ ☉ The Vital uestion ✩ Author Nick Lane – 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 b 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 uestion award winning author and biochemist Nick The Vital ePUB ↠ Lane radically reframes evolutionary history putting forward a solution to conundrums that have puzzled generations of scientistsFor 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 happenThe 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 deathsBoth rigorous and enchanting The Vital uestion provides a solution to life’s vital uestion why are we as we are and indeed why are we here at all.

10 thoughts on “The Vital uestion

  1. Brian Clegg Brian Clegg says:

    This is a bravura hit you between the eyes popular science book which were it not for a couple of failings would not only be five star but uite possibly the best popular science book of the year so farNick Lane succeeds on two levels One is opening the eyes of a relatively ignorant reader on the subject of biology like me to the sheer magnificent complexity of biological mechanisms I was aware for instance of mitochondria as the power sources of eukaryotic cells but hadn't a clue just how complex the molecular machines that function across their boundary to the wider cell and inside each mitochondrion were It is truly mind boggling and wonderful At one point Lane comments with raised virtual eyebrows on the number of physicists now working in biology but that's not at all surprising when it becomes plain how much of what goes on is down to pure physics whether it's pumping protons passing electrical charges or uantum tunnelling Lane does resort to the odd exclamation mark normally frowned on by writers but for once it seems entirely justifiedThe other impressive aspect of the book might be less familiar even to some biologists when Lane explores the origins of life no longer from an organic 'soup' but now thought to be primarily from water and carbon dioxide how the energy reuirements of life can sometimes tell us than genetics about the way living cells turned out how our complex cells seem to have developed initially from the embedding of bacteria into another prokaryotes this time archaea And that's just the start in a complex ride that involves changing membranes from one kind to another the spontaneous formation of a nucleus the changing nature of DNA and far It even explains why practically all eukaryotes like us have sexual reproduction Perhaps most surprising is that the earliest common ancestor of eukaryotes seems to have already had most of these complex mechanisms and structures for reasons that again Lane makes very plausible It's fascinating and really changes the idea of how various kinds of living cells may have come into beingSo what's the downside? The writing is rather repetitious It's amusing that early on Lane refers to this as a short book saying that it is as short as it could possibly be to get the point across But it is in fact a middle sized book that could have been significantly short and to the point with some of the repetition particularly in the first few chapters taken outMore significantly I think the book suffers from Feynman's ague when the great American physicist was involved in biology he bemoaned the vast uantity of labels that had to be learned to get anywhere and I found there were plenty of pages where I didn't really understand what Lane was talking about because I had either never come across or had already forgotten the explanation of yet another tedious term The book really could have benefited from a co author who wasn't a biologist to say 'you've lost me' ever few pages or in some cases every few lines I got the overall gist but I felt I was missing out on some of the finer points and did skip a few pages where it was all getting too much for meDespite those misgivings though there is so much to discover in this book I would recommend it for either of my two reasons for liking it alone but taken together they make a potent package that will truly bring out the sense of wonder as only good science can

  2. Socraticgadfly Socraticgadfly says:

    I learned a lot from this book and unlearned some old things about biology and biochemistry Here's some notes I took about the book to save on my computer0s Nick Lane The Vital uestion1 Endosymbiosis was a one off between an archaeon body and a bacterium that became mitochondrium Golgi bodies may or may not have invaded later; other “subbodies” were likely produced by internal action tho Lane doesn’t specify2 Archaea and bacteria didn’t diversify at black smoker vents on seafloor ridges but rather at warm yet cooler and gentler venting alkali vents about 10 30 miles away which with multiple holes provided a “membrane” for proton pumping along with alkali gradient vs acidic seawater for reduction potential gradients for CO2 to reduce to formic then to methanol but stopping before methane which isn’t desired3 It made evolutionary sense for nucleus to uptake most mitochondrial genes4 Multicellular eukaryotes can either tolerate high levels of mitochondria vs nuclear gene defect rates and adaptability in exchange for short lives rats or low tolerance and low birth rates and low adaptability in exchange for maintaining a high evolved fitness birds esp which need high performance mitochondria5 High mitochondrial defect rates affect neurons and muscles above all hence human neuromuscular disease and per germ cells hence their hitting men Muscles and nerves have the highest metabolic rate and we can’t replace out nerve cells overall in developed adults6 A modified version of the old “free radical theory” might be true while rejecting the idea that antioxidants can help they can actually hurt and not testing in body rather than in lab is how the original theory went wrong7 Cellular free radical links aren’t bad they’re signals8 Mito nuclear variants that affect ATP efficiency are linked to apoptosis and seem to serve to signal it; apoptosis probably evolved early9 Mito defects are probably related to many early pregnancy spontaneous abortions He says that 40 percent of all ends this way even higher than Ayala’s guess10 Per reptiles and SRY defect in mammals he thinks temperature of development is key for sex differentiation to the point he thinks that if what’s left of the Y chromosome finishes disintegration mammals would find another temp based way to distinguish sexes11 Re SETI he says that the chemiosmotic nature of life on earth will probably be found elsewhere if we find life elsewhere12 “Energy is less forgiving than genes”Throughout he specifies when he is being speculative Within that he notes what speculative items are testable He then subnotes which of these he or his students are already testing or others he knows of are already testing

  3. Charlene Charlene says:

    Until now Nick Lane has been my favorite author Increasingly or at least in my estimation he is joining the ranks of the old science guard who work hard to a politicize science and b make important science inaccessible to the non scientific but intelligent and curious reader If his discussion of Margulis had been half as balanced as the male scientists he discussed who also got a few things right and a few thing very wrong chapter one would have been tolerable Francis Crick believed that DNA was put in cells by aliens all that LSD he took; and yet not a mention of that by Lane in an attempt to discredit the whole of his work When discussing the Miller Urey experiment Lane merely glosses over the fact that it doesn't jive with the most important law known to humans thermodynamics If he treated them like Margulis he would have gone after them on a much personal level Luckily for me I was a science major As such I am lucky enough to appreciate the incredible work in this book Lane reminds me of Newton who when writing the Principiamade damn sure the lowly undeserving commoner could never have access to his ideas I much prefer authors like physicist Sean Carroll or Paul Falkowski who work hard to break down complicated information and package it for public consumption However if you are already extremely familiar with biochem membrane bioenergetics thermodynamics and the like this book which reflects sheer brilliance is for you I remember reading Lane's paper on membrane bioenergetics I was in love with every word of it It took me 4 days to really pour over it The RNA world and primordial soup hypotheses are missing important components because they cannot account for the energy reuired for replication Lane's origin of life argument which involves a natural energy source at deep ocean vents that acts just like a cell does when it makes ATP is extremely compelling Any hypothesis that doesn't take into account thermodynamics and reuired energy is doomed to fail Both RNA world and primordial soup fail to hold up Even if Lane's hypothesis turns out to be incorrect it taught us that we must meet the reuirements of thermodynamics and keep focused on energy needs and constraints in order to understand how life began Any correct theory must provide an answer to how enough energy can be generated so that cells can replicate Lane's hypothesis is simply the best candidate If the vents were not the energy source something was If it's not the vents it is likely something that works in a similar manner Despite the elitist tone of the book this is the type of theory that shifts paradigms It is without uestion a seminal work I read one review that suggested Lane merely regurgitated what the reviewer had already learned in their science courses at university I cannot imagine how that is even possible considering the novel nature of the work Absolutely worth reading if you can get through it

  4. Mario the lone bookwolf Mario the lone bookwolf says:

    How have physics and biochemistry been so perfectly matched in such tiny organisms?Please note that I have put the original German text to the end of this review Just if you might be interestedBillions of years nothing Then long stagnation And then an evolutionary and complexity explosion that can only be explained with a variety of vague hypotheses Something has enabled higher life has given primitive life forms the impossible seeming ability to evolve furtherThe biochemist's point of view puts Lane in an exciting position He can also describe the physics behind the evolution of life at all stages of development This extends the astonishment beyond purely biological processes to natural science in and around the living beings How it developed from catching the right atoms and looking for and choosing the right source of energy to the complex microorganisms is a science thrillerWhat emerges is the nature made fusion of physics and biology hard science and life sciences It can be estimated when and how but the why on the other hand is still a lot complicated Some milestones are the most significantIt took 2 billion years for eukaryotic cells to form As a result of endosymbiosis procaryotes were able to absorb bacterial cells and thus generate an excess of energy Switching from lateral gene transfer to sex was another milestone This brought with it several genders but also the indispensability of the ineluctable death of a uniue individual There is no lack of hypotheses Panspermia a deliberate uplifting by unknown instances pure coincidence or influences by unknown forces Even the most obvious assumption that all life has arisen on earth alone and without help How did it come to the respective breakthroughs and evolutionary thrusts after eons of stagnation? These seem to end in a similar dilemma as the parable of the hen and the egg How could something previously unprecedented happen by itself and then reproduce? Or DNA arise by itself? A self modifying and replicating program that like a machine always creates new variants of itselfGiven the sophisticated functional mechanisms of nature each engineer is awestruck Complex networks of trillion single elements communicating with one another in right proportions and perfect timing Proton pumps uantum entanglement and uantum tunnels and the generation and use of electricity for bodily functions and data transmission The possibilities of using these little explored mechanisms for technical applications are manifoldAs an edifice of ideas it could seem like a fusion of biotechnology and nanotechnology Only this combination enabled the microorganisms to implement actual technical functionalities in living bodies through the manipulation of thermodynamics The applications that humans will be able to develop in the future with a better understanding of these processes are limitless In the best case a symbiosis of natural development in all life forms is accompanied by their optimization with the technical possibilities Or the other way around With as little misappropriation and abuse of this powers as possibleWithout at least rudimentary knowledge this work is a guarantor for frustration With a parallel open search engine to explain some specialist terminology however one dives into the history of life from new perspectives Some passages which are not so crucial for the overall context can be safely overlookedWie wurde die Physik und Biochemie in so winzigen Organismen derart perfekt aufeinander abgestimmt?Milliarden Jahre nichts Dann lange Stagnation Und dann eine Evolutions und Komplexitätsexplosion die sich nur mit verschiedensten vagen Hypothesen erklären lässt Irgendetwas hat höheres Leben ermöglicht hat primitiven Lebensformen die unmöglich anmutende Fähigkeit verliehen immer weiter zu evolvieren Der Standpunkt des Biochemikers erhebt Lane in eine interessante Position Er kann auch die Physik hinter der Evolution von Leben in allen Entwicklungsstufen beschreiben Das erweitert das Staunen über die rein biologischen Prozesse hinaus zu der Naturwissenschaft in und um die Lebewesen Wie es etwa alleine vom Fangen der richtigen Atome und suchen und wählen der richtigen Energieuelle bis zu den komplexeren Kleinstlebewesen kam ist ein WissenschaftsthrillerWas dabei zu Tage tritt ist die von selbst entstandene Fusion von Physik und Biologie von harten Naturwissenschaften und Lebenswissenschaften Dabei kann man wann und wie mittlerweile recht gut abschätzen Das warum hingegen ist noch ungemein komplexer Einige Meilensteine sind dabei am bedeutendstenEs dauerte 2 Milliarden Jahre bis sich eukaryotische Zellen bildeten Indem Prokarioten durch Endoysymbiose Bakterienzellen in sich aufnahmen und damit einen Energieüberschuss erzeugen konnten Der Wechsel von lateralem Gentransfer zu Sex war ein weiterer Meilenstein Das brachte mehrere Geschlechter aber auch die Unabdingbarkeit des endgültigen Todes eines einzigartigen Individuums mit sich An Hypothesen mangelt es nicht Panspermie ein gezieltes Upliften durch unbekannte Instanzen reiner Zufall oder eine Einwirkung durch unbekannte Kräfte Selbst wenn man von der lapidarsten Annahme ausgeht dass alles Leben alleine auf der Erde entstanden ist Wie kam es dann nach Äonen zu den jeweiligen Durchbrüchen und Evolutionsschüben Diese scheinen in einem ähnlichen Dilemma wie das Gleichnis von der Henne und dem Ei zu münden Wie könnte etwas vorher nie Dagewesenes von selbst entstehen und sich dann reproduzieren? Oder DNA von selbst entstehen? Ein sich selbst modifizierendes und replizierendes Programm das wie eine Maschine immer neue Varianten von sich selbst herstellt Angesichts der ausgefeilten Funktionsmechanismen der Natur erstarrt jeder Ingenieur in Ehrfurcht Komplexe Netzwerke aus Billionen miteinander kommunizierenden in richtiger Zahl vorhandenen Einzelbestandteilen Protonenpumpen uantenverschränkung und uantentunnel und die Erzeugung und Nutzung von Elektrizität für Körperfunktionen und Kommunikation Die Nutzungsmöglichkeiten dieser noch wenig erforschten Mechanismen für technische Anwendungen sind vielfältigEin Gedankengebäude wäre das es wie eine Fusion von Bio und Nanotechnologie anmutet Erst diese Kombination befähigte die Kleinstlebewesen dazu durch die Manipulation der Thermodynamik eigentliche technische Funktionsweisen in biologische Körper zu implementieren Die Anwendungen die der Mensch in Zukunft bei besserem Verständnis dieser Prozesse wird entwickeln können sind grenzenlos Wobei im günstigsten Fall eine Symbiose der natürlichen Entwicklung in allen Lebensformen mit deren Optimierung durch die technischen Möglichkeiten einher geht Oder umgekehrt Hauptsache wenig Missbrauch und ZweckentfremdungOhne zumindest rudimentäres Vorwissen ist dieses Werk ein Garant für Frustration Mit parallel geöffneter Suchmaschine zur Erklärung mancher Fachtermini hingegen taucht man aus neuen Blickwinkeln in die Geschichte des Lebens ein Manche für den Gesamtkontext nicht so wichtige und zu spezifische Passagen können aber getrost überlesen werden

  5. Max Max says:

    Lane asks why life arose only once on earth and why complex life also arose only once The similarities between the cells of all living things are so great that scientists believe all have a common ancestor Similarly eukaryotes living things that have cells with a nucleus mitochondria and other common attributes also have a single common ancestor Eukaryotes are complex life that includes everything from you to mushrooms to amoebas The first eukaryote is believed to have been formed from an endosymbiotic relationship between a bacteria and an archaea The bacteria became what we know as mitochondria Lane believes the answer to why bacteria and eukaryotes only arose once goes beyond nature and nurture genetics and the environment He believes structural limitations were so difficult to overcome that each event only happened onceAll life has common cellular structures and uses common processes to generate energy Cellular respiration operates through redox reactions We oxidize food to free electrons Some bacteria use hydrogen sulfide gas or just hydrogen molecules to supply electrons Photosynthesis uses the sun to free electrons In all cases the electrons are directed down a respiratory channel attracted to oxygen or other receiving molecule and constrained by enzymes along the way During this journey the electrons are used to pull protons across a membrane creating a strong electrical charge differential That charge powers the enzyme ATP synthase that creates ATP ATP then carries the energy to where it is needed in the cell Lane supplies the details outlining the remarkable complexity of the protein machinery that pumps protons and produces ATP This respiration complex is an all eukaryotes bacteria and archaea in every living cell That means it must have been in the last common ancestor of all life we know todayThe scale of cellular respiration is mind boggling A human body averages 40 trillion cells which hold one uadrillion mitochondria The mitochondria contain the energy producing protein machinery In a single human adding all the mitochondria together the folded inner membrane that forms the proton gradient has the total surface area of four football fields Across this surface area the membranes pump 10^21 protons eual to the number of stars in the universe every second You’ve got a lot going on Lane believes this ability to create free energy is the key to the origin of life The respiration process along with a steady supply of carbon catalysts to speed up reactions some type of cell wall a way to get rid of waste and RNA or DNA or a functional euivalent gets life started After explaining why some commonly proposed scenarios lack the necessary ingredients for life’s origins Lane settles on deep sea alkaline hydrothermal vents not to be confused with black smoker vents The water in hydrothermal vents is warm not prohibitively hot like black smoker vents Hydrothermal vents are stable and can last 100000 years while back smoker vents crumble after decades Hydrothermal vents at the time life formed delivered a steady flow of carbon and hydrogen These vents have a labyrinth of natural channels that concentrate reactants over inorganic catalysts Today hydrothermal vents cannot spawn new life First because existing life is consuming some of the necessary ingredients Second because oxygen in the water precludes the formation of iron sulfide and hydroxide catalysts Before the great oxygenation event that would not have been a problem Third they deliver insufficient carbon today Four billion years ago oceans contained vastly carbon Lane believes the conditions would have been right for a reaction between hydrogen molecules and carbon dioxide to produce methane Today methanogens do just that to supply their energy needs However Lane acknowledges that his theory is not without credible critics and he is testing the scenario in his lab where he can recreate an environment similar to the one he believes existed four billion years agoLane delves deeply into how life might have formed in alkaline hydrothermal vents He starts by looking at the bacteria and archaea living today in the vents They fix carbon and produce energy from hydrogen and carbon dioxide Lane believes this was also true of their last universal common ancestor LUCA According to Lane life starts in the pores of the vent where inorganic proton gradients containing catalytic iron sulfur minerals produce organic molecules and polymers Eventually lipid membranes replace the inorganic gradient in protocells that form from the interaction of the organic molecules The lipid membrane enables carbon and energy metabolism These reactions are forced by the need to reach euilibrium between the alkaline hydrogen rich vent water and the acidic metal rich ocean Proteins and nascent genes develop through natural selection to form essential protein structures such as ATP synthase ribosomes and RNA or similar genetic code This all takes place in the vent pores Lane goes well beyond this sparse description with many pages of explanations and detailed chemistry He doesn’t use difficult formulas but the many possible reactions he describes to support his thesis become overwhelming at least to this reader Over the last four billion years bacteria and archaea have changed little despite the dramatic changes in the earth’s environment To produce complex life took the creation of the eukaryote around 2 billion years ago Lane accepts the endosymbiosis hypothesis that the eukaryote arose from an archaea engulfing a bacterium which over time became a mitochondria A reason bacteria may have not become complex is because of structural restrictions on their energy output As size increases cell volume is cubed and cell surface area is suared In bacteria the proton gradient membrane runs close to the cell surface limiting their ability to support increased volume Eukaryotes use multiple even thousands of mitochondria per cell each with folded membranes Eukaryotes centralize most of their DNA in the nucleus with minimal DNA reuired for energy production staying in the mitochondria This minimal genome makes forming new mitochondria very efficient Having the relevant DNA close to the action rather than in the cell nucleus also makes them efficient energy producers and responsive to changing conditions The large number of mitochondria and their superior structure support the much larger size and complexity of the eukaryotic cell As bacteria increase in size they place full copies of their DNA along the surface membrane This makes cell division take longer a real disadvantage in bacteria which are always competing with other bacteria Thus bacteria are naturally selected for small sizeHow did the first eukaryotes go on to develop the nucleus their flexible cellular skeleton a plethora of internal membranes and structures and most significantly sex and death? There are no halfway survivors between simple bacteria and complex eukaryotes Lane posits that it was all Darwinian natural selection following the one off endosymbiotic event The nucleus formed to control the conflict between the archaea’s DNA and that of the bacteria it engulfed Bacteria commonly transfer their DNA material to each other so the archaea would have taken it in and incorporated it into its DNA Only the DNA absolutely necessary was left in the mitochondria maximizing efficiency The process was evolutionary Sex similarly was an early development in eukaryotes While bacteria engage in lateral gene transfer meiotic cell division and the fusion of two haploid gametes one from each parent into a zygote was entirely new Sex mixes individual genes to form a wide array of different gene combinations or alleles in a population Thus it allows natural selection to operate at a much finer level as opposed to favoring or disfavoring an entire chromosome or genome that is passed down intact or with mutations Mitochondria genes come from only one parent in almost all multicellular organisms the female in humans Active animals in particular have high energy needs and their cells have hundreds or thousands of mitochondria and mutations Two different mitochondrial genomes can make alignment with the nuclear genome difficult degrading their function Mitochondrial disease can develop when the mitochondrial genes don’t work well with those in the nucleus These genomic mismatches limit interbreeding between closely related different species and even long separated populations of the same species Since mitochondria in active animals build up mutations rapidly female germ cells are produced early in life and seuestered with the mitochondria turned off This is not true in animals with undifferentiated tissues which form germ cells throughout their body such as sponges They can regenerate a whole new individual from any segment Lane discusses in great detail how the need to preserve mitochondria health led to our sexual differences He concludes “the inheritance of mitochondria can account for most of the real physical differences between the two sexes” The higher mutation rate of mitochondria genes led to an immortal germ cell line and a mortal body Germ cells are always young and can keep on dividing forever The rest of the body becomes disposable Once germ cells are seuestered complex animal tissues can differentiate to enable their specialized functions but these tissues lose the ability to reproduce Death and aging join sex as a conseuence of mitochondria and the endosymbiotic beginning two billion years ago of eukaryotes Mitochondria are only one of a number of important parts of a eukaryotic cell Lane however concludes “But that is not the view from evolution The view from evolution sees mitochondria as eual partners in the origin of complex life All eukaryotic traits – all cell physiology – evolved in ensuing the tug of war between these two partners“The structure of the respiration machinery in mitochondria is finely tuned yet it is built by two different genomes Some of the many proteins each built from hundreds of amino acids that comprise these extremely complex machines are products of the genes in the mitochondria and others are products of the genes in the nucleus Yet they have to fit and work together precisely If they don’t electron flow is impeded reducing the efficiency of energy production If electron flow is impeded enough free radicals form If too many free radicals are produced the proton gradient membrane loses its potential When that happens cell apoptosis is triggered This scenario is true for all eukaryotes The organism is in essence selecting out cells with mismatched genomes If an organism is pervaded with poorly functioning mitochondria disease results often affecting areas with the highest metabolic rate such as the brain and muscles Unfortunately mutations build up over time in the mitochondrial genes which increases incompatibility with genes in the nucleus Thus mitochondrial function typically declines with age and that decline accelerates in our senior years If the cells don’t self destruct they may become senescent stressing the tissues they are in Unfortunately Lane doesn’t believe taking lots of antioxidants will help since they are unlikely to get into the cell and if they did they would interfere with normal energy production Lane concludes “if life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest death is nothing but that electron come to rest”This is an excellent but very demanding book The depth of Lane’s explanations seemed a bit uneven Some concepts that I considered easy he explained at length Others that I found difficult he seemed to skim over Perhaps this reflects my own limitations given the density and detail of his presentation Still I learned a great deal particularly from his supporting arguments Just his description of the complexity of cell physiology and cellular respiration left me amazed His explanation of the dynamics of two different genomes building proteins that interact intricately in the respiration complex was eye opening with significant implications for evolution aging and human health I benefited greatly from having read another of Lane’s books Power Sex and Suicide before this one It is not a light read but I felt it was accessible than this one I recommend checking it out if this one interests you

  6. Pooja N Babu Pooja N Babu says:

    Have you ever wondered what life is? Not in the philosophical complexity of how hard it is to lead one but what actually defines life in a scientific sense Ever tried to comprehend the complexity of living wondered on what makes life what concept or part it is that makes you say an organism is alive or dead? In the general sense if you stop breathing you are considered dead Okay you breathe you walk you talk But what is it that makes you breathe autonomously in the first place? If you have ever thought in these lines and are amazed by life on earth this is the perfect book to seek out answers for all the aforementioned nagging uestionsThe book starts with when the life is believed to have come into existence in the first place The Precambrian explosion where the first life form arose 35 to 4 billion years back These were bacteria and archaea which monopolized for a whopping 2 billion years Then the earth's atmosphere only comprised of carbon nitrogen sulphur and iron Then there was The Great Oxidation Event which led to that rare event endosymbioses between a bacteria and an archaea that the complex life a eukaryote as we see now arose the endosymbiont turning out to be the mitochondria in our cells Scientists have still not been able to reason out for this rare event but have enormous evidence to prove that this was pivotal for complex life to flourishThe author Nick Lane also beautifully explains the concept of life Our life narrows down to the interplay between energy and entropy What he calls the shopping list of life a continuous flux of carbon and energy the concoction of mineral catalysts in a compartmentalized system present in a conducive atmosphere in hydrothermal vents is supposed to have formed life Again 'life' as an autonomous system is that always tends to increase the entropy of the system which increases the free energy available in the surroundings which is in turn consumed by organism to produce the energy currencies called ATP in mitochondria through respiration WhoaThe book also talks about what constraints on the modern eukaryote led to the proliferation of complex life The probability of a eukaryotic cell formed from the rarest of a rare event to turn out to modern humans or plants yes plants and we share a common ancestor is very low But the conditions on earth was too good to be ignored giving rise to mutations and speciation by natural selection The author also mathematically proves why it was feasible for a eukaryotic cell to evolve giving rise to a myriad kinds of species than having a monopoly of prokaryotes Then comes the part where the author talks about how 'sex' arose why are there only 2 sexes and the evolutionary benefit of having so He gives a probable explanation for why scientists say the life anywhere else in the universe is hard to exist The conditions are just very strict and events being as improbable as it might seem Even if they do he says it must be of the way as we have on earth as endosymbioses by the process of chemiosmosis is universal in cosmic termsThe author has laid out his theories of six years of research and argues why they might be true compared to all the theories we already know He also openly accepts why his theories can be false or haven't yet been proved with enough evidence The love for the subject and his work is clearly reflected in his writingThe book with all the scientific details can be tantalizing and hard to comprehend I literally had to read almost every paragraph twice to understand the science behind his explanations That can cause a bit of a detour but I guess all that can be compensated when you realize how amazingly complex and magical life on earth is whilst reading those detailsI highly recommend this book to all science fans especially for those who are interested in the so called BIG uestions of life I felt reading the book being awestruck at every page repeatedly reading most parts to comprehend the details was all worth my time To have been evolved as an intelligent species as homo sapiens who have thrived since 200000 thousand years with renaissance industrial revolutions agriculture and all the scientific explorations over the past 500 years we are a product of a slow meticulous and intricate design of evolution who are just the new guests to our planet which is 45 billion years old We just got very lucky PS1 This book was recommended as the Best Science Book of 2015 by Bill Gates Read his review here Brief videos on the book by the awesome Joe Hanson in his Youtube channel It's okay to be smart can be found here

  7. Carlos Carlos says:

    Wow this book was so interesting it's main goal is to put forward the theory that the ability to harness energy by single cell organisms was the leap that was necessary for said organism to evolve into complex organisms and therefore us it explains the processes by which this could be possible attained 4 billion years ago it argues that achieving this feat was nothing short of a miracle that it's very likely to not happen again It also predicts that life in other planets would be similar to earth life at least in the molecular level which it goes to explain we share with almost all organisms here on earth since complex life evolved from one single cell organism that achieved the ability to harness energy ribosomes the ability to keep them in double membrane and the motor to generate that energy mitochondria and therefore was able to escape the fate of single cell bacteria I only give 4 stars to this book because this is not for the beginner this is a very complex and technical albeit very informative book

  8. Emma Sea Emma Sea says:

    A gorgeous book so clear and well written Worth reading for the description of the ATP synthase alone I wish science writing this good had been around when I was at high school If you're considering reading it basically it's about the importance of mitochondria Lane's ideas got super fascinating in chapter 9 and if you don't currently have time to read all 305 pages of Lane's book and you know a little about cell biology already I rec picking up the book just to read this chapter alone And if you don't have time for a single chapter at the very climax of the book is a brief discussion of the deep sea 'parakaryote' discovered in 2010 which really encapsulates his key takeaway points on endosymbionts and the evolution of complex cells and there's a very short excerpt from the book just on this topic here which you really shouldn't miss This was my first book by Lane but it won't be my last

  9. Vicky Chijwani Vicky Chijwani says:

    A compelling theory of the origin of life and its progression to complexity built from first principles and intimately linked with energyI found a glowing mention of this book at the end of Bill Gates' Best Books of 2015 blogpost and immediately bought it after reading the intriguing premise If you liked The Selfish Gene and are ready for a challenging book I highly recommend this onePrereuisites basic understanding of cell biology and a bit of chemistry Some familiarity with the concept of entropy helps but is not reuiredThings I really liked about this book Careful chains of reasoning from first principles of thermodynamics which is rare in biology supported by numerous real world examples and ingenious observations without resorting to blanket pronouncements of truth Nick Lane seems to be acutely aware of human failings and himself says his theories and ideas may not be correct which is refreshing after reading all the popular science authors that exude unfailing ie probably misplaced confidence in their own ideas Specific testable predictions on the basis of the theories Frank admittance of mistakes committed theories proven wrong and the fact that they will continue to be Like he says beautiful theories can get killed by ugly facts The facts care nothing for our desiresI found myself highlighting several paragraphs every chapter which I don't do often—other books in my copious highlights category include On Intelligence and Thinking Fast and Slow EDIT 032017 I just found out Goodreads now stores my Kindle highlights which is awesome Check 'em out hereWhat I didn't like about this book Reasoning in every chapter is repeated several times and got somewhat boring towards the end However this is a minor uibble and often saved me the greater tedium of going back to re read the material Sometimes the subtle re phrasing of an explanation even helped me grasp the logic Some unfamiliar technical terms weren't explicitly explained even though I'd heard the word germline I didn't know what it meant had to look it upAll considered this is an excellent popular science book In my mind it's right up there with The Selfish Gene though it reuires beforehand knowledge Don't miss it

  10. Ross Blocher Ross Blocher says:

    This is the book I've been waiting for So many discussions theological and biological jump immediately to the conundrum of abiogenesis It's a particularly difficult problem with the origins of life shrouded in the ancient past and a good deal of complexity to be conjured from natural processes alone Enter Nick Lane a biochemist in the Department of Genetics Evolution and Environment at University College London leader of their Origins of Life Program Lane tackles numerous features of life in turn framing the conversation in terms of energy flow and pulling from his own original research as well as that of his colleaguesVarious popularly proposed locations for the origin of life are presented and shot down Lane carefully lays out the case for alkaline hydrothermal vents which have just the right mix of materials constant and gentle energy flow and microscopic pores with pH differentials that can establish a flow of electrons and protons Next he tackles the creation of organic building blocks for life early cells and all the other pieces needed to get us to a living cell all in such a way that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is respected with atoms seeking their highest entropy states and explaining why increased complexity is part of that processLane then tackles the riddle of the two types of prokaryotic cells bacteria and the confusingly named archaea; which features they share such as ATP energy generation hardware and why other features such as cell walls evolved distinctly This sets up the bigger problem of why it took so long some 2 billion years for the larger and massively complex eukaryotic cells to form and why there seem to be no antecedent versions of them extant Hint the endosymbiont adoption of a bacterial cell by an archaean that became mitochondria was the important step that allowed eukaryotic cells to generate enough power to grow beyond the prokaryotic size constraints Next he takes on the transition from lateral gene transfer to sex the need for multiple sexes and everything from germ lines to programmed cell death All explained on the molecular levelGoodness I see I am lapsing into terms that would have stymied my comprehension from the very start and this gives me some sympathy for Nick Lane He's a gifted writer who often has fun with his phrasing but he is tackling a truly complicated subject and the writing is accordingly complex Go figure the subtitle of the book is Energy Evolution and the Origins of Complex Life While he does an admiral job of explaining terms there are so many of them and they are so uickly thrown about that this makes for exceedingly slow reading I found myself re reading many passages and flipping back and forth between the various illustrations side boxes footnotes glossary and the internet to pull concepts togetherThis is an important book for anyone interested in the origins of life and complexity truly THE vital uestion If you're not already well versed in chemistry and biology this one will have a steep learning curve but it's rewarding and covers an impressive amount of ground Lane very carefully lays out what we know for sure and why what we don't know yet and points to future research that can further enhance our collective knowledge of life's origins

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