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WINNER OF THE 2010 ROYAL SOCIETY PRIZE FOR SCIENCE BOOKS '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
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 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.
In this wonderful book, Lane (Power, Sex, Suicide), a biochemist at University College London, asks an intriguing and simple question: what were the great biological inventions that led to Earth as we know it. (He is quick to point out that by "invention," he refers to nature's own creativity, not to intelligent design.) Lane argues that there are 10 such inventions and explores the evolution of each. Not surprisingly, each of the 10-the origin of life, the creation of DNA, photosynthesis, the evolution of complex cells, sex, movement, sight, warm bloodedness, consciousness and death-is intricate, its origins swirling in significant controversy. Drawing on cutting-edge science, Lane does a masterful job of explaining the science of each, distinguishing what is fairly conclusively known and what is currently reasonable conjecture. At times he presents some shocking but compelling information. For example, one of the light-sensitive pigments in human eyes probably arose first in algae, where it can still be found today helping to maximize photosynthesis. While each of Lane's 10 subjects deserves a book of its own, they come together to form an elegant, fully satisfying whole. 20 illus. (June) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
This is a science book that doesn't cheat: the structure is logical, the writing is witty, and the hard questions are tackled head on -- Tim Radford * Guardian * Original and awe-inspiring ... an exhilarating tour of some of the most profound and important ideas in biology -- Michael Le Page * New Scientist * Excellent and imaginative and, similar to life itself, the book is full of surprises ... a fascinating book for anyone interested in life and evolution, and how these discoveries were made * Nature * Life Ascending earns its place on the bookshelf of every biology teacher - and anyone else interested in how we all got here. -- James Kingsland * Guardian * an absolute joy...Dr Nick Lane employs a clarity of thought and an adroitness of expression that allows the reader to easily navigate his enviable breadth of knowledge. A breadth of knowledge that never scrimps on detail whilst delivering logic and inspiration in equal measure. The very definition of a 'must read' for anyone that has ever marvelled at the complexity of life * Laboratory News * If Charles Darwin sprang from his grave, I would give him this fine book to bring him up to speed. -- Matt Ridley Lane brings science alive with the kind of beautiful prose that turns a book full of interesting information into a book you simply cannot put down. -- Amanda Gefter * New Scientist * Nick Lane is one of the most exciting science writers of our time. His book...reads like a smooth chronicle, has great subject matter and is well argued. -- Steve Connor * Independent * With its vast scope, page-turning revelations and elegant prose, Nick Lane's Life Ascending is everything one could hope for in a science book -- Robert Matthews * Daily Telegraph *
This ambitious book explains ten significant milestones in the evolution of life, beginning with the origin of life and onto the development of DNA, complex cells, sex, sight, consciousness, and death. Lane (honorary reader, biochemistry, Univ. Coll. London; Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life) brings together intriguing insights from researchers to build consistent theories as to how these "inventions" came about. The illustrations and endnotes are helpful, but the lack of a bibliography will be problematic for those who like to follow up particular research. Verdict Lane writes clearly and well, although there are sections, particularly in the chapter on the origin of life, where the biochemistry is a bit intense for the general reader. Overall, a fascinating and provocative scientific book for the layperson.-Marit S. Taylor, Auraria Lib., Denver Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.