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Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology
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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

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Street Date:
07/28/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307986832
ASIN:
B00RKO0KWM

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APA Citation (style guide)

Johnjoe McFadden. (2015). Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. Crown.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Johnjoe McFadden. 2015. Life On the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. Crown.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Johnjoe McFadden, Life On the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. Crown, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Johnjoe McFadden. Life On the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology. Crown, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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      • bioText: Johnjoe McFadden is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey and is the editor of several leading text books. For over a decade, he has specialized in examining tuberculosis and meningitis, inventing the first successful molecular test for the latter. He is the author of Quantum Evolution and co-editor of Human Nature: Fact and Fiction.
        Jim Al-Khalili OBE is an academic, author, and broadcaster. He is a leading theoretical physicist based at the University of Surrey, where he teaches and carries out research in quantum mechanics. He has written a number of popular science books, including Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science. He has presented several television and radio documentaries, including the BAFTA-nominated Chemistry: A Volatile History and The Secret Life of Chaos.
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title
Life on the Edge
fullDescription
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
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Wall Street Journal
      • content: "Remarkable...Life on the Edge is a fascinating and thought-provoking book that combines solid science, reasonable extrapolation from the known into the unknown, and plausible speculation to give an accessible overview of a revolutionary transformation in our understanding of the living world."
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: "The elemental provocation of the book lies in the authors' ability to make the complex conceivable... McFadden and Al-Khalili give sure footing to the anything-goes bafflement of quantum theory."
      • premium: False
      • source: Booklist [starred]
      • content: "McFadden and Al-Khalili draw readers into a revolutionary new paradigm. . . An intellectually exhilarating visit to the baffling frontiers of science!"
      • premium: False
      • source: The Economist
      • content: "Coherence is just one of the complex phenomena that Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe McFadden set out to teach the reader. They succeed by using delightfully revealing analogies and similes, some borrowed from their prior work, that make slippery concepts sit still for study."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Times (UK)
      • content: "Hugely ambitious ... the skill of the writing provides the uplift to keep us aloft as we fly through the strange and spectacular terra incognita of genuinely new science."
      • premium: False
      • source: Nature Magazine
      • content: "Physicist Jim Al-Khalili and molecular biologist Johnjoe McFadden explore this extraordinary realm with cogency and wit."
      • premium: False
      • source: The Sunday Telegraph
      • content: "This thrilling book is an overview of a field that barely exists ... Al-Khalili has a genius for illustrating complex ideas via imaginative sidetracks."
      • premium: False
      • source: A C Grayling
      • content: "This illuminating account of an important new field is a wonderfully educative read."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        May 25, 2015
        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 Schrödinger’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. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh Literary Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 15, 2015
        Notes toward an understanding of quantum mechanics' part in biological processes. For readers who are not quantum physicists, let us take solace from Niels Bohr ("Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it") and Richard Feynman ("If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics"). McFadden (Molecular Genetics/Univ. of Surrey; Quantum Evolution: How Physics' Weirdest Theory Explains Life's Biggest Mystery, 2002, etc.) and Al-Khalili (Theoretical Physics/Univ. of Surrey; Paradox: The Nine Greatest Enigmas in Physics, 2012, etc.) deliver a book that can be approached with healthy openness to entertain the mind-bending applications of quantum theory to biology suggested here. Borderlands are always mysterious places, and none more so than that between the classical and quantum worlds, though the authors note that there has been enough experimentation for us to entertain the role of quantum properties in the kindling of life and subsequent behavioral components. They begin with how the act of measurement erases so many of the spooky quantum states: particles being two things at once, being in more than one place at a time, and entangled with subatomic partners so that even at great distances they influence one another, tunneling through the impermeable. In each chapter, the authors tackle a particular issue, but they also range freely to introduce topics-waves and lumps, decoherence, the kinetic isotope effect, enzyme reactions-that exhibit quantum behavior, while not suggesting that quantum theory explains everything. The elemental provocation of the book lies in the authors' ability to make the complex conceivable. When they write, "photosynthetic systems were indeed implementing a quantum search strategy," and thus "the origin of life could similarly involve some kind of search scenario," readers can question it intelligently. McFadden and Al-Khalili give sure footing to the anything-goes bafflement of quantum theory, making it approachable even for neophytes.

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        August 1, 2015

        McFadden (molecular genetics, Univ. of Surrey; Quantum Evolution) and Al-Khalili (theoretical physics, Univ. of Surrey; Black Holes, Wormholes and Time Machines) introduce quantum biology to a lay audience. They provide a basic introduction to the subject, explaining that quantum mechanics operates within living beings at the submolecular level, dictating the movement of protons and electrons within the atoms that comprise a plant or animal. The authors then discuss how recent research has applied quantum physics to life processes as varied as bird migration, the sense of smell, genetic mutation, and how tadpoles lose their tails. The authors use everyday objects and activities to describe complex theories, such as comparing Schrodinger's wave function to the problem of locating a recidivist burglar. They explore the possibility of quantum involvement in consciousness and in the initial creation of life on Earth. The concepts are challenging but made accessible to nonscientists. VERDICT Of interest to readers curious about the inner workings of life; suitable for public and undergraduate academic libraries.--Rachel Owens, Daytona State Coll. Lib., FL

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from June 1, 2015
        How can a force as weak as the earth's magnetic field guide migrating birds? In recounting how deep-probing scientists answered this question, McFadden and Al-Khalili draw readers into a revolutionary new paradigm in which scientific understanding of living systems is grounded in the same quantum mechanics long relied on by physicists. To help general readers grasp the counterintuitive principles of quantum theory, the authors develop illuminating analogies (making a jewel thief on parole, for instance, a stand-in for an elusive electron). They then set about showing how these strange principles (Einstein called them spooky ) are helping scientists probe biological enigmas. Readers see, for example, how quantum entanglement accounts for birds' magnetic compass, how quantum tunneling makes enzymes work, and how a quantum random walk drives photosynthesis. Readers soon realize just how completely quantum phenomena pervade the plant and animal worlds. Skating into conjecture, the authors even propose that in the power of living organisms to amplify subatomic quantum events, we see the very essence of life. Just as speculative are the authors' suggestions as to how quantum superimposition may explain both how life originated and how life developed its most mystifying manifestationconsciousness. An intellectually exhilarating visit to the baffling frontiers of science!(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

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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...
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