Power, Sex, Suicide

Power, Sex, Suicide : Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life

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Power, Sex, Suicide, Complexity, Individuality, Fertility, Prehistory, Ageing, Death - these universal themes are all linked by mitochondria - the tiny structures located inside our cells - miniature powerhouses that use oxygen to generate power. There are hundreds of them in each cell, some 10 million billion in a human being. Once considered menial slaves, mere workhorses for complex cells with nuclei, their significance is now undergoing a radical revision. Mitochondria are now seen as the key ingredient that made complex life possible at all. For two billion years, bacteria ruled the earth without ever generating true complexity - a stasis that may still grip life on other planets. Then the union of two bacterial cells led to an evolutionary big bang, from which algae, fungi, plants and animals emerged. For mitochondria were once free-living bacteria, and still retain unmistakable traits of their ancestry, including some of their original DNA. Ever since their fateful absorption, the tortuous and unpredictable relationship between the mitochondria and their host cells has forced one evolutionary innovation after another.
Without mitochondria, nothing would exist of the world we know and love. Their story is the story of life itself. Today, mitochondria are central to research into human prehistory, genetic diseases, cell suicide, fertility, ageing, bioenergetics, sex and the eukaryotic cell. Piecing together puzzles from the forefront of research, this book paints a sweeping canvas that will thrill all who are interested in biology, while also contributing to evolutionary thinking and debate. This is a book full of startling insights into the nature and evolution of life, and should be read by anyone who wants to know why we're here.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 368 pages
  • 160.02 x 238.76 x 35.56mm | 721.22g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • numerous halftones and line drawings
  • 0192804812
  • 9780192804815
  • 1,765,334

Review quote

Challenging, but rewarding. Observer Full of startling insights into the nature and evolution of life as we know it. Economist Best Books of the Year, 2005 An enthralling account...The author has accomplished something quite breathtaking...moreover,he brings the science alive...he is always accessible, livley, thought-provoking, and informative. Every biologist should read this book 'Power, Sex, Suicide is an enjoyable and readable book...anyone interested in the broader and more philosophical aspects of their discipline will profit from reading the book' David G. Nicholls, Science impressive...a polemical book...readable, provocative and often persuasive...This is an exciting and unusual book. Jonathan Hodgkin, Times Literary Supplement
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About Nick Lane

Nick Lane is an honorary Research Fellow at University College London and Strategic Director at Adelphi Medi Cine, a medical multimedia company based in London. He is the author of Oxygen: The Molecule that Made the World and his writings have appeared in numerous scientific publications, including Scientific American, The Lancet, and the British Medical Journal. He lives in the UK.
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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Mitochondria - clandestine rulers of the world; 2. Hopeful monster - the origin of the eukaryotic cell; 3. The vital force: Proton power and the origin of life; 4. Insider deal: Why mitochondria are needed for the evolution of complexity; 5. Power laws: Size and the ramp of ascending complexity; 6. Power, sex, suicide: The troubled birth of the individual; 7. Battle of the sexes: Human prehistory and the nature of gender; 8. Clock of life: Why mitochondria kill us in the end
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Rating details

1,763 ratings
4.23 out of 5 stars
5 49% (859)
4 32% (563)
3 15% (264)
2 3% (53)
1 1% (24)
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