Friday, 28 August 2009

Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life by Nick Lane

A truly profound book.

For such a heavy weight topic, and one which he doesn't hesitate to cover in depth, Nick Lane pulls this off with seeming effortless grace. I picked up this book simply because I was learning about mitochondria at the time and fancied a bit more detail. I wasn't disappointed. If you find yourself complaining about things being dumbed down then this book is for you.

For once the blurb on the book itself is not overstated and we do get an insight into "the most profound questions of 21st century science", and it is indeed "full of startling insights into the nature and evolution of life as we know it".

We start with a fascinating discussion of the ongoing scientific debate about how life started and how it developed to the level of the cell, and then into multicellular organisms. The mitochondria have a larger role to play in this story than I realised. I had been awed and fascinated by how the mitochondria generate energy and this book only added to my emotions (and knowledge). Next we are given the story of the struggle (?) between the genome of your cells and the DNA in the mitochondria. Finally we see how the powerhouses of the cell play a huge role in the development of sex - maybe.

This book isn't easy and I mean that in a good way. If you can read Dawkins then you can read this.

As well as a talent for writing and the ability to get difficult concepts across in an entertaining way the author deserves credit for picking out such a fascinating subject that has (to my knowledge) not been given the popular science coverage it deserves.

Needless to say, I have added his other books to my reading list.

A great read.

Four and a half out of five stars.

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