TITLE: The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is?
AUTHOR: Nick Lane
DATE PUBLISHED: 2016
“There’s a black hole at the heart of biology: we do not know why life is 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 – but why?
In The Vital Question, award-winning author and biochemist 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 lightning bolt. In unravelling these scientific enigmas and making sense of life’s quirks, Lane’s explanation provides a solution to life’s vital question: why are we as we are, indeed, why are we here at all?”
This is a nicely written science book for intelligent people. No interviews or fashion commentary. Lane examines the fundamental requirement of life, namely energy. The starts off with examining what life and living is and then takes a look at how (and where) the first cells possibly evolved. Many hypotheses are examined, discarded or elaborated upon. Lane also takes cell evolution further by examining the evolution of complex cells, why most eukaryotes have two different sexes, how cells die, what powers a cell, and a host of other interesting goodies. There is a fair amount of physics, biochemistry and chemistry in this book, along with several illustrations and diagrams. Lane tends to be a bit repetitive, but with a complex subject like this, it probably helps to recap previous points. This is a fascinating book that makes a great addition to his previous book Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life.