The Vital Question: Why is life the way it is?

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Profile, Apr 23, 2015 - Science - 569 pages

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.

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About the author (2015)

Nick Lane has published four critically acclaimed books, translated into 20 languages; most recently The Vital Question. He was awarded the 2015 Biochemical Society Award for his outstanding contribution to the molecular life sciences. Life Ascending won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

Nick is a biochemist in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London.

'Like his forebears in that same department - Steve Jones, JBS Haldane - he's that rare species, a scientist who can illuminate the bewildering complexities of biology with clear, luminous words' (Observer)
'One of the most exciting science writers of our time' (Independent)

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