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Mselves with such precision Life on the Edge accessibly reveals how uantum mechanics can answer these probing uestions 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 uantum 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 uantum ed. absolutely stunning a book that with often beautiful prose describes key concepts of uantum physics and uantum biology in a way that is detailed and not oversimplified but still able to be understood by a layperson such as myself who doesn t even have an A level in physics a fascinating exploration of what is potentially the most exciting groundbreaking field of science presently

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Life on the Edge

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 Bringi. You might think that this book has received four stars but if you know anything about uantum theory you will be aware that a uantum object can be in a superposition of states And this uantum book is in a superposed state of 5 stars for the subject which is fascinating and important and 3 stars for the writing which is disappointingly poor given Jim Al Khalili s expertise and experienceIt might seem that the whole concept of uantum biology is a truism that hardly needs exploring When every chemical reaction or electrical activity in a living organism is based on the interaction of uantum particles why would there be a need for a separate discipline But the still relatively few workers in the field like uantum physicist Jim Al Khalili and biologist Johnjoe McFadden are looking at special cases Where uantum effects like entanglement have a direct impact on large scale systems Whether it s the robin s ability to steer using a molecular magnetic compass or the detail at the heart of photosynthesis there seems to be some strange uantum behaviour that would take biologists by surprise as much as the general reader And the authors suggest perhaps it is the reason that life itself can existThere are two aspects of the book that are truly fascinating One is the exploration of the way that photosynthesis makes use of uantum effects in fact could not work without it It s absolutely mind boggling that the excited electron that has to be passed as an energy source to the reaction centre has no way of getting there without making use the of the uantum probabilities of taking every path to find its way And as the authors explore the incredible unlikeliness of life getting started as a result of random interactions it becomes increasingly obvious that there surely must have been some kind of uantum effect that was involved in that process We have no idea what it might be so having a chapter titled How life began is a bit optimisticOne thing I didn t like which is a common failing when a media scientist writes a book is the way that uantum physics is presented with a broadcast gloss What I mean by this is that in a TV or radio programme where you only have a minute or two to explain something you often have to gloss over the detail in a way that means you will say something that isn t uite true to keep things moving But in a book you have the space to explain things properly and this kind of glossing is a shame It happens early on where uantum physics is first explained We hear for instance that uantum particles can be in two places at once where in reality they aren t at any fixed location and uantum spin is mentioned in a way that suggests it s literally about a particle spinning around it s notThere was also what seemed like a little cattiness Several times again as it s on uantum physics I assume this was Al Khalili there are at least four little digs about the way that uantum entanglement doesn t make paranormal phenomena his inverted commas such as telepathy possible At one point he says despite the bogus claims of telepathy If you don t know the field you might wonder why this obsession with telepathy but if you do it s hard not to suspect that this is a dig at Nobel Prize winner Brian Josephson who has previously made exactly this suggestionHowever neither of these is the reason for the 3 stars for writing which is rather that apart from those highlights of photosynthesis and the origins of life the book gets bogged down in biochemical details that are frankly not very interesting and that fail to carry the reader uantum physics may be glossed but biological details get the opposite treatment Perhaps it s the difficulty of having a co authored book Perhaps it s because the authors are too close to the subject but I found parts of it very tedious perhaps reflective of the old Feynman observation about biologists spending far too much time learning the names for thingsOverall then a fascinating topic a branch of science that is shiny and new and wonderful But not the book it should have been

Johnjoe McFadden ½ 8 SUMMARY

Ng 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 uantum 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 the. For a long time it was believed that scientists could only study uantum mechanics at absolute zero in their labs Yet in recent years excellent evidence of uantum mechanics at work in humans birds plants and other living things has come to the fore Who knew This book is a fascinating and very accessible introduction for the general reader It uses virtually no math Rather the writers possess a neat gift for metaphor Stephen Jay Gould had this gift too and while Life on the Edge isn t SJG that paragon of science writing it does the job and does it well


10 thoughts on “Life on the Edge

  1. says:

    You might think that this book has received four stars but if you know anything about uantum theory you will be aware that a uantum o

  2. says:

    I really appreciate well written books about science when they are written by active researchers in the field And this book ualifies as McFadd

  3. says:

    McFadden and Al Khalili explore the role of uantum mechanics in living organisms This new field of uantum biology is finding that life lies on the edge between classical and uantum physics thus the title of the book The authors do not believe in any spiritual or mystical influences rather they dig deeply into bi

  4. says:

    What lies beyond the molecular level? Where we can not see Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review Just if you might be interestedThe motor of life seems to be complicated than expected It turns out and than th

  5. says:

    For a long time it was believed that scientists could only study uantum mechanics at absolute zero in their labs Yet in recent years excellent evidence of uantum mechanics at work in humans birds plants and other living things has come to the fore Who knew? This book is a fascinating and very accessible introduc

  6. says:

    I have a problem with most of the new science books that I've been reading lately They really aren't saying anything new and when they do they seem to enter into woo woo land The authors demonstrate nicely how certain biological pro

  7. says:

    I absolutely loved this book The subject is fascinating and it's written in an easy to read style that is very layman friendly There's a sprinkling of humour and the prose even borders on the poetic in placesThe examples the authors choose to illustrate the concepts they are trying to teach are excellently chosen and really held my attention I recommend this book to anybody with an interest in this seriously

  8. says:

    absolutely stunning a book that with often beautiful prose describes key concepts of uantum physics and uantum biology in a way that is detailed and not oversimplified but still able to be understood by a layperson such as

  9. says:

    A wonderful book describing wonderful thingsScience is not my strongest area in learning but this book makes clear an opaue to me part of phys

  10. says:

    35In general I love reading about the smallest processes in biology or physics I could read an entire book on the inner life of the mitochondria's electron transport chain and I would be enthralled I find it prett