Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

Hardback

By (author) Nick Lane

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Paperback $10.83
  • Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
  • Format: Hardback | 288 pages
  • Dimensions: 162mm x 240mm x 34mm | 668g
  • Publication date: 16 April 2009
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1861978480
  • ISBN 13: 9781861978486
  • Sales rank: 479,753

Product description

Powerful new research methods are providing fresh and vivid insights into the makeup of life. Comparing gene sequences, examining the atomic structure of proteins and looking into the geochemistry of rocks have all helped to explain creation and evolution in more detail than ever before. Nick Lane uses the full extent of this new knowledge to describe the ten greatest inventions of life, based on their historical impact, role in living organisms today and relevance to current controversies. DNA, sex, sight and consciousnesses are just four examples. Lane also explains how these findings have come about, and the extent to which they can be relied upon. The result is a gripping and lucid account of the ingenuity of nature, and a book which is essential reading for anyone who has ever questioned the science behind the glories of everyday life.

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Author information

Nick Lane studied biochemistry at Imperial College, London and is an honorary reader at University College, London. His first book, Oxygen, was one of the Sunday Times Books of the Year in 2002. His last book, Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life was named as a book of the year in The Economist in 2005 and was short-listed for The Aventis Science Book Prize and the Times Higher Young Academic of the Year Award in 2006.

Review quote

'If Charles Darwin sprang from his grave, I would give him this fine book to bring him up to speed. It's a breathless bulletin from the accelerating rush of news about the secrets of life on planet earth.' Matt Ridley. 'An original and awe-inspiring account. The first two chapters are the most coherent and convincing summaries of the dawn of life and of DNA that I have ever read... An exhilarating tour of some of the most profound and important ideas in biology. Anyone interested in life should read it. Highly recommended' Michael Le Page, New Scientist.

Editorial reviews

An accessible look at the greatest wonders of evolutionary science.For such a short work, Lane (Biochemistry/University College London; Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, 2005) is admirably ambitious in scope, tackling such complex subjects as DNA, photosynthesis and consciousness in living things. Natural selection is a powerful creative force, notes the author, and has produced some ingenious and elegant scientific processes. Starting with the electrochemical reactions that may have produced the first life on Earth, Lane clearly explains how these landmark processes work and why they are so important. In an engaging chapter on photosynthesis - as well as others dealing with the complex cell, the sense of sight and the emergence of sex and movement among organisms - Lane lays out processes of dizzying complexity in smooth, nimble prose. He also provides a smattering of scientific history, showing how these processes were worked out by thinkers and researchers. (Footnotes provide more detail for the scientifically astute reader.) In the final and most insightful chapter, Lane looks at death as a beneficial process that allows organisms to avoid genetic diseases associated with living exceedingly long life spans. "[D]eath and disease are not random," he writes. "Death evolved. Ageing evolved. They evolved for pragmatic reasons. In the broadest of terms, ageing is flexible, an evolutionary variable that is set against various other factors, like sexual maturation, in the ledger book of life. There are penalties for tampering with these parameters, but the penalties vary and in a few cases at least can be trivial." The author cites a Japanese study that found that one tiny variant of DNA made people twice as likely to live to be 100.A lucid introduction to complex concepts of evolution. (Kirkus Reviews)