Life on the Edge by Johnjoe McFadden & Jim Al-Khalili

Life on the Edge by Johnjoe McFadden & Jim Al-KhaliliLife on the Edge by Johnjoe McFaddenJim Al-Khalili
Published by Crown/Archetype on July 28, 2015
Genres: Biophysics, Life Sciences, Molecular Biology, Physics, Quantum Theory, Science
Pages: 368
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Blogging for Books for review consideration.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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Life is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the known universe; but how did it come to be? Even in an age of cloning and artificial biology, the remarkable truth remains: nobody has ever made anything living entirely out of dead material. Life remains the only way to make life. Are we still missing a vital ingredient in its creation? Like Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, which provided a new perspective on how evolution works, Life on the Edge alters our understanding of our world's fundamental dynamics. Bringing together first-hand experience at the cutting edge of science with unparalleled gifts of explanation, Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe Macfadden reveal that missing ingredient to be quantum mechanics; the phenomena that lie at the heart of this most mysterious of sciences. Drawing on recent ground-breaking experiments around the world, each chapter in Life on the Edge engages by illustrating one of life's puzzles: How do migrating birds know where to go? How do we really smell the scent of a rose? How do our genes copy themselves with such precision? Life on the Edge accessibly reveals how quantum mechanics can answer these probing questions of the universe. Guiding the reader through the rapidly unfolding discoveries of the last few years, Al-Khalili and McFadden communicate the excitement of the explosive new field of quantum biology and its potentially revolutionary applications, while offering insights into the biggest puzzle of all: what is life? As they brilliantly demonstrate in these groundbreaking pages, life exists on the quantum edge.

I think one of the first questions asked about books like this is: How accessible is it? With Life on the Edge, McFadden and Al-Khalili do their best to bring physics, quantum mechanics, chemistry, and biology to a lay audience but honestly, this is still one very dense read. It’s incredibly exciting and fascinating—some scientists are now attempting to answer life’s puzzles using the perspective of the quantum world. But don’t go into this book expecting to learn through a fun, pop-science tone à la Mary Roach. Life on the Edge falls somewhere between having a textbook feel (and honestly, I don’t see how that could have been avoided) and narrative nonfiction. Worried it’ll be over your head? If you enjoyed and paid attention in your high school science classes, you should be able to hang—the authors fill in the rest of the gaps very well. If you’re interested in the topic, you’ll find that this book is well worth the effort.