Reviews elsewhere on the web:
C. L. Hanson
New Scientist

Nick Lane

Life Ascending

In Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution, Nick Lane tells the reader how ten of the most important steps in the development of life on Earth are thought to have come about. These steps are the origin of life, DNA, photosynthesis, the complex cell, sex, movement, sight, hot blood, consciousness and death.

Lane examines the questions which scientists are currently investigating for each of these steps. Did life begin in the oceans around 'black smokers'. Were the dinosaurs hot blooded. And why do we have sex when asexual reproduction would seem much more efficient. The last two chapters are a bit different from others. That on consciousness has quite a bit on the philosophy of mind, and that on death does look at why it evolved, but also at possible ways to avoid it (which I'm sure will be of interest to many people).

I wouldn't recommend this book to those who have no previous experience in the subject. Although it isn't difficult to read, it is more suited to those who have read something about the evolution of life and want to move to the next level of detail. You'll find out, for instance, aobut the Z-scheme in photosynthesis and how the rhodopsin molecule is used in the process of sight, but also has several other uses within the body. If you're OK with that amount of detail then I think you'll find this a fascinating read. info
Hardcover 352 pages  
ISBN: 0393065960
Salesrank: 655630
Weight:1.2 lbs
Published: 2009 W. W. Norton & Company
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Paperback 352 pages  
ISBN: 1861978189
Salesrank: 103506
Weight:0.53 lbs
Published: 2010 Profile Books
Amazon price £9.98
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ISBN: 1861978189
Salesrank: 2800541
Weight:0.53 lbs
Published: 2010 Profile Books
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Product Description

A renowned biochemist draws on cutting-edge scientific findings to construct the mosaic of life’s astounding history.

How did life invent itself? Where did DNA come from? How did consciousness develop? Powerful new research methods are providing vivid insights into the makeup of life. Comparing gene sequences, examining atomic structures of proteins, and looking into the geochemistry of rocks have helped explain evolution in more detail than ever before. Nick Lane expertly reconstructs the history of life by describing the ten greatest inventions of evolution (including DNA, photosynthesis, sex, and sight), based on their historical impact, role in organisms today, and relevance to current controversies. Who would have guessed that eyes started off as light-sensitive spots used to calibrate photosynthesis in algae? Or that DNA’s building blocks form spontaneously in hydrothermal vents? Lane gives a gripping, lucid account of nature’s ingenuity, and the result is a work of essential reading for anyone who has ever pondered or questioned the science underlying evolution’s greatest gifts to man.20 figures