New York Times bestseller • Life on the Edge alters our understanding of our world's fundamental dynamics through the use of quantum mechanics.
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?
Using first-hand experience at the cutting edge of science, Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe Macfadden reveal that missing ingredient to be quantum mechanics. Drawing on recent ground-breaking experiments around the world, each chapter in Life on the Edge illustrates 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 describe 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.
Winner, Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication
It is a challenging task to find ways to bridge two highly technical disciplines for the general reader, but McFadden, a molecular geneticist, and Al-Khalili, a theoretical physicist, attempt it with some success, using the principles of quantum mechanics to explain the intricacies of molecular biology. As the authors note, "quantum mechanics is utterly counterintuitive," so bringing readers to the point where they can understand the topic well enough to appreciate how it might be applied to biological problems is nearly impossible. Nevertheless, McFadden and Al-Khalili find ways to present the results of some recent scientific studies so as to make the case that quantum mechanics likely plays a role in biological topics as diverse as enzymatic reactions, olfaction, and animal migration. They get a bit more speculative when they posit that such interactions may be responsible for many genetic mutations, consciousness, and the origin of life. They pay particular attention to Erwin Schr dinger's 1944 book, What Is Life, claiming that many of the ideas set forth in that slim volume were both correct and essential for our current understanding of biology. However, most biologists and historians of biology disagree with the latter assertion. Until more experimentation catches up with the speculation offered, McFadden and Khalili's interesting ideas are unlikely to be persuasive.
A Good Read
Engagingly written, explaining the theories of quantum mechanical processes in the living world. Fascinating, fun reading. At the very end, the discussion about creating life - living buildings and living entities that would remove the drudgery from our lives - avoids any mention of negative consequences, like what happens if these things evolve, as living things do. Still, a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking book.
Thank you Johnjoe and Jim for the great book!
I do believe this new emerging field of quantum biology has a potential to reveal what life is really all about. But yes - it's not going to be the ultimate answer and the end of the story -:) I think science simply doesn't have the end -:)