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
‘McFadden’s bold hypothesis that quantum physics plays a key role in the origin and evolution of life looks increasingly plausible. The weird behaviour of matter and information at the quantum level could be just what is needed to explain life’s astonishing properties. If these ideas are right, they will transform our understanding of the relationship between physics and biology.’ PAUL DAVIES
In this brilliant debut, Johnjoe McFadden puts forward a theory of quantum evolution. He shows how living organisms have the ability to will themselves into action. Indeed, such an ability may be life’s most fundamental attribute. This has radical implications. Evolution may not be random at all, as recent evolutionary theories have taught: rather, cells may, in certain circumstances, be able to choose to mutate particular genes that provide an advantage in the environment in which the cell finds itself. This ‘will’ – described by McFadden as ‘the life force’ – has startling implications. It is at the root of consciousness and free-will and provides a new understanding of the origins of life and the purpose of death.