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Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution [Kindle Edition]

Nick Lane
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Original and awe-inspiring... an exhilarating tour of some of the most profound and important ideas in biology. --Michael Le Page


If Charles Darwin sprang from his grave, I would give him this fine book to bring him up to speed. --Matt Ridley, author of The Red Queen


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 3126 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 352 Seiten
  • Verlag: Profile Books (1. Oktober 2010)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B0041G68LO
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (2 Kundenrezensionen)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #128.926 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Wie alles begann und wie es dann weiterging. 10. September 2010
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
Nick Lane ist Biochemiker, sein Fachgebiet ist der Ursprung und die Evolution komplexer Lebensformen, wir z.B. Aber vorher musste noch einiges passieren. Lane beginnt mit der Frage, was kam eigentlich vor der Evolution, wie und wo könnten sich RNA, DNA, Zellen entwickelt haben, also der Ursprung des Lebens auf unserem Planeten. Dazu berichtet er den Stand der aktuellen Forschung, die Kenntnisse, die man bisher aus der Erforschung der 'weissen Raucher' entwickelt hat. Von dort ausgehend behandelt er ausführlich die seiner Meinung nach 10 wichtigsten 'Erfindungen' der Evolution, wie z.B. Photosynthese, Sex, Bewegung, Bewußtsein, Tod.
Zu jeder 'Erfindung' beschreibt er nicht nur den aktuellen Forschungsstand sondern auch den Weg dahin, mit all seinen Kurven, Steinen und falschen Abzweigungen. So kann der Leser nachvollziehen wie geforscht wird.
Sehr lesenswert, aber nicht leicht zu lesen, Grundkenntnisse in Chemie und Zellbiologie sind hilfreich. Zur Not gibt es ja das Internet.
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5.0 von 5 Sternen one of the most fascinating books i've ever read 22. Januar 2013
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
this book is gorgeous as it puts many different fields of science in context and gives you
a good overview of the current state of knowledge. spanning from molecular biology over
consciousness to death it gives a great perspective on why we are what we are.
on the other hand i must say that i've read a couple of books in this domain and the question
is how much a priori knowledge you have when you read this book. if this is your fist book, then
it may be sometimes a bit strenuous to work through it. however, for this kind of matter the style
of writing is very nice and readable, so do give it a try!
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190 von 200 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Just when I think evolution books can't get any better, the ante is upped. 16. Juni 2009
Von Greg - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
Twenty-five years ago when I was learning creationism rather than biology in the Christian college I graduated from, we had a fairly good excuse. No doubt scientists knew the evidence well enough and found it overwhelmingly supported the fact and theory of evolution. But for non-biology students and typical laypersons, the evidence was never presented in an accessible or cogent enough way to persuade us, and so we defaulted to the easy-to-grasp, if simplistic, notion that "God did it." Period, quotation marks, end of story.

The excuse is gone, and each new book in this field seems to top the previous entries in some key aspect. "Life Ascending" takes a biochemical approach to the fascinating "inventions" of evolution, from the beginning of life to photosynthesis, sex...even death. Other writers have dipped into this important topic, notably Sean Carroll, but I am not aware of another popularly written book that focuses so extensively on this one aspect of evolutionary theory. And for my money, it's the most compelling evidence that exists.

The chapters on the origins of life and metabolism (Krebs cycle) are worth the price of the book alone. Will the hypotheses advanced convince a hard-core Intelligent Design promoter? Not likely. The speculation required still eclipses the evidence provided, but a very plausible-sounding pathway is put forth, and it's fascinating to think about. What's more, key elements of each hypothesis are TESTABLE, setting them well apart from the comparitively content-free notion of Intelligent Design.

The capper is how lucid the prose is, and how entertaining. Even when the topics get technical and potentially dry, great care is taken to turn phrases, add color, and supply interesting metaphors and examples to pull the reader through. I can hardly recommend this book more highly.
51 von 55 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Fascinating yet frustrating 28. Juli 2010
Von Tim Gordon - Veröffentlicht auf
At times the book makes its points clearly and it is fascinating. but so much of the time it is unfocused, not content with describing natures greatest inventions, the author insists on giving equal weight to the history of thought surrounding each invention.
When he is focused, he can be witty and compelling, but you turn around for a moment, and he has put down his rifle and is wielding a blunderbus.
There is so much that is interesting and compelling in the book, but then for long periods he throws in so many half-explained terms that it is like listening to an orchestra in which every instrument is being played at exactly the same volume.
For example, photosynthesis; he explains some things beautifully, such as the extraordinary stability of water molecules and therefore the inherent difficulty in separating oxygen from hydrogen. And he is entertaining as he employs the metaphor of a street hustler, who manages to sell an additional electron to the carbon dioxide molecule that is perfectly happy without it. But then, having convinced me so thoroughly of the difficulties involved, he seemed to rush over the exact details of how photosynthesis overcomes them.
36 von 39 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Introducing...Evolution's Top Ten Hits 9. Dezember 2009
Von Stephen Pletko - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe

"This book is about the greatest inventions of evolution [where invention does NOT imply a deliberate inventor], how each one transformed the living world, and how we humans have learned to read this past...It is a celebration of life's marvellous inventiveness...It is...the long story of how we came to be here--the milestones along the epic journey from the origin of life to our own lives and deaths. It is a book grand in scope. We shall span the lengths and breadths of life, from its very origins in deep-sea vents to human consciousness, from tiny bacteria to giant dinosaurs. We shall span the sciences, from geology and chemistry to neuroimaging, from quantum physics to planetary science. And we shall span the range of human achievement...

My list of [ten] inventions is subjective...and could have been different; but I did apply four criteria [that the author outlines] which I think restrict the choice [of inventions] considerably to a few seminal events in life's history...Beyond these...formal criteria, each invention had to catch my own imagination."

The above comes from the introduction of this extraordinarily interesting book by biochemist and author Nick Lane. He is a biochemist at University College, London, England.

This book is a treasure trove of past, recent, and new scientific knowledge. And the writing is superb. A book like this could have been dry and boring. But the writing is so good that this never occurs. For example, here is a writing sample from the chapter on sex:

"If sex is an occupational folly, an existential absurdity, then not having sex is even worse, for it leads in most cases to extinction, non-existential absurdity. And so there must be advantages to sex, advantages that overwhelm the foolhardiness of doing so. The advantages are surprisingly hard to gauge and made the evolution of sex the 'queen' of evolutionary problems through much of the twentieth century. It may be that, without sex, large complex forms of life are simply not possible at all: we would all disintegrate in a matter of generations, doomed to decay like the degenerate Y chromosome. Either way, sex makes the difference between a silent and introspective planet, full of dour self- replicating things...and the explosion of pleasure and glory all around us. A world without sex is a world without the songs of men and women or birds or frogs, without the flamboyant colours of flowers, without gladiatorial contests, poetry, love, or rapture. A world without much interest."

A criticism of this book that I have read is that certain inventions of evolution cannot be adequately explained and therefore should not have been included in this book. I disagree. Take the invention of consciousness for example. True we don't have all the answers. But what we do know makes for interesting reading. Thanks to Lane's writing, these chapters don't only make for interesting reading but stimulating reading as well.

Finally, this book could have benefited from a glossary. True, Lane defines terms in his narrative but I think a glossary would have made this book easier to read.

In conclusion, this book is essential reading for anyone who has wondered about our very existence or ever questioned the science underlying evolution!!

(first published 2009; introduction; 10 chapters; epilogue; main narrative 285 pages; notes; list of illustrations; acknowledgements; bibliography; index)

<<Stephen Pletko, London, Ontario, Canada>>

22 von 24 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Evolution's Triumphs on the Molecular Scale 20. August 2009
Von R. Hardy - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
It is one of the shibboleths of evolution that the blind forces which change genes and change creatures have no aim or direction. Our hands and the wings of bats may be wonderfully engineered biological machines, and may arise from the same basic limb design, but it is wrong to think that evolutionary forces set out to build up progressively so that hands and wings could emerge with their current efficient designs. It is hard, however, to get away from the idea of life forms progressing or ascending; we do, of course, speak of "lower life forms" without thinking of how astonishingly complex even an amoeba is. Nick Lane, a biochemist, knows that we are not evolutionarily "climbing the ladder of life", and especially knows that it is a parochial view that puts humans at the uppermost reaches of the biological tree. Nonetheless, his most recent book is called _Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution_ (Norton). These ten inventions are steps, if not steps up, in the complexity of life. The subtitle of his book also bears examination, and he knows it. In his introduction, he writes, "Evolution has no foresight, and does not plan for the future. There is no inventor, no intelligent design. Nonetheless, natural selection subjects all traits to the most exacting tests, and the best designs win out." Each of the chapters here looks at one of the ten winners within those tests. Lane admits he has made a subjective "Ten Best List", but he did have criteria. Each invention had to revolutionize the world, be of surpassing importance now, be due to evolution by natural selection rather than due to cultural forces, and had to be iconic in some way. What is significant in his book is that, as befits a biochemist, he has not concentrated on, say, hand and wing morphology, but on the molecules within cells that make the whole biological and evolutionary process go.

To start off, necessarily, Lane considers the origin of life. Darwin had no way of knowing about the current best candidate for primordial life, the fissures within the basalt of the ocean floor. The vents bubble a supply of hydrogen which could react with the carbon dioxide in the water to form organic molecules, and a cross section of the vents shows a labyrinth of compartments that could have concentrated the organic molecules to become precursors of RNA, the primordial relative of DNA. After examining the origins of DNA, Lane tackles photosynthesis, the process by which sunlight powers reactions to strip electrons from water and install them into carbon dioxide, producing oxygen and energy-rich sugars. The chloroplast, the organelle in which photosynthesis takes place, evolved only one time, and from that start, now every green plant and alga has them. Why do we have sex? You may form your own ribald answer to the question, but it has been a real puzzle to biologists. After all, if a successful creature could just clone itself asexually, the success could not but continue. There are costs to sex, from the effort expended to finding a mate to the transmission of venereal diseases. There are plenty of possible explanations, and computer-driven mathematics behind them, about which Lane says, "... although it's a messy solution from a mathematical point of view, nature can be as messy as she likes." Lane goes on to discuss movement; initial life forms didn't power themselves, but the ability to do so was a huge advantage. The contraction of muscle depends on an intricate and coordinated pull of molecules like actin, and the actin in your muscles is almost exactly the same as the actin within immobile yeast cells; it forms the cytoskeleton in such cells, the foundation for movement of intracellular stuff, and evolution has borrowed it to make muscular movement. The closest Lane comes to concentrating on morphology rather than biochemistry is his chapter on vision, but even here he tells about the visual pigment rhodopsin, which evolved just once long ago and is the photoreceptor common to every creature that sees. Hot-bloodedness, or simply the ability metabolically to provide a stable temperature, is the next invention on the list. It gives us an advantage when weather changes, and it gives us stamina, and also allows big brains. Big brains in humans (let's not quibble about other animals) produce the next subject, consciousness. We have a single integrated perception from all sorts of input; take a look around you, for instance, and it seems as if you are looking at one scene, but there are two different scenes, one from each eye. This stereo vision is integration is of the simplest form; the higher issue of how feelings, which are just neurons firing, feel so real is full of paradoxes. And finally Lane winds up with, well, finality: death. Simple cells split and multiply, but all the complicated creatures die. Why on earth would we have genes that program senescence and death?

There are wonderful explanations here, and even better questions. In each chapter, Lane has shown some of the history of scientific effort to come to understanding. " has a unique power to settle scores through experiment and observation, through tests in reality, and the countless details give rise to something bigger, just as, with the right distance, innumerable pixels paint a compelling picture." It is just the sort of picture made by the unity of the chapters in this compelling book.
10 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Fantastic material, but disjointed, needs an editor 28. Januar 2011
Von B. Einhorn - Veröffentlicht auf
The material in the book is incredible. Its facinating, broad, and deep, and better than other books. The author introduces one idea after the next, and takes the reader step by step through a problem or process, explaining the consequences along the way. Even reading one chapter will give you a lot to think about.

The big problem I have with the book is its not well organized. Its disjointed, and rambling, and some important things are not explained well. If you are a Bio-Chemist or have an advanced degree in Biology you may not mind, and then this book is a 5 star book for you.

If you have a general science background, or are just interested in the subject, you will probably have a hard time absorbing more than a fraction of the material. I was looking at a couple of other similar books, and this one is so much better, its a shame it wasn't edited better. I much prefered the first half to the second

This may be the best book I've read that ulimately failed, because the ideas were not explained well.
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the Krebs cycle was not invented by genes, it is a matter of probabilistic chemistry and thermodynamics. &quote;
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Provide it with ATP, carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and the cycle spins out the basic building blocks of life, as if by magic. &quote;
Markiert von 12 Kindle-Nutzern
Given sufficient resources (obviously an impossible demand) a single bacterium weighing a trillionth of a gram could found a population with a weight equal to that of the earth itself in less than two days. &quote;
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