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Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution | [Nick Lane]

Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

Where does DNA come from? What is consciousness? How did the eye evolve? Drawing on a treasure trove of new scientific knowledge, Nick Lane expertly reconstructs evolution's history by describing its 10 greatest inventions - from sex and warmth to death - resulting in a stunning account of nature's ingenuity.
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Publisher's Summary

Where does DNA come from? What is consciousness? How did the eye evolve? Drawing on a treasure trove of new scientific knowledge, Nick Lane expertly reconstructs evolution's history by describing its 10 greatest inventions - from sex and warmth to death - resulting in a stunning account of nature's ingenuity.

©2010 Nick Lane (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Royal Society Prize for Science Books, 2010

"Original and awe-inspiring . . . an exhilarating tour of some of the most profound and important ideas in biology." (New Scientist)

“For about 150 years, we have known how species evolve. The emergency of life itself remains more obscure. But as Lane shows with clarity and vigor in Life Ascending, fascinating studies on the subject abound.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“In this wonderful book….Lane does a masterful job of explaining the science….” (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (142 )
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4.1 (63 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Joshua Flint, MI, USA 07-06-10
    Joshua Flint, MI, USA 07-06-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great and informative but with prior knowledge"

    This was an interesting and fun listen. I have been interested in evolution for most of my adult life, and while this book takes for granted that evolution is real (who, in their right minds, doesn't?), it does so with great inquiry. Many of the topics held within evolution are discussed here, such as the eye and if evolution was slow and gradual or fast and abrupt.

    The book can seem to drag at points, more so if the reader (listener) does not have a firm grasp on many of the scientific terms (I didn't). Because I listened to this book commuting in 2 hour chunks, it was easy for my brain to tune out a lot of the scientific trains of thought. Not a good thing, if that's what you are expecting from this book.

    All in all a decent listen and read. I would recommend this to anyone interested in evolution, but without the need to prove it's existence to themselves.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ShySusan Somewhere in Darkest Utah 06-02-12
    ShySusan Somewhere in Darkest Utah 06-02-12 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1036
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    "Great book!"

    This was a great book. I think I understood maybe half of it, but that half was fascinating. I used to be a science teacher, but I've been retired for a while now, and I've let my subscriptions to science magazines lapse, and I have fallen behind. He lets us in on the newest theories about a number of scientific theories, and they are fascinating: How did life begin? How was DNA, photosynthesis, cells, sex invented? Will we ever be able to overcome old age and death? There are ten chapters on ten topics, and the information in each one is mind boggling. I kept thinking, "Gee, I wish I'd known this when I was still teaching." But actually, much of it hadn't been discovered then. This is really fresh stuff.

    You will have to concentrate to understand this book. I don't commute anymore, so I usually play computer games while I listen to Audible books--games that don't require a lot of thought. But even solitaire was too complicated to play while listening to this book. I plan to listen to it again, but I'm going to get the Kindle version to read along with the audio version.

    This book is difficult but very rewarding. I recommend it highly.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 02-17-11
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 02-17-11 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "technical but enlightening"

    The most technical of the many science/biology books I've read to date--not for those who hated biology class.

    It was particularly good on the theories origins of life/DNA, photosynthesis, and eukaryotic cells. Not so great on consciousness (I think it's hard to make a case that that is one of the greatest "inventions" of evolution from the overall picture of life) and death (really a chapter about how we can avoid the degenerations/infirmations of old age--SPOILER: eat less).

    I thought I had, at last, a science book that doesn't try to persuade us that evolution is true but, alas, in the final chapter the author made his pitch. It was a powerful one, though, so I'll excuse it.

    Definitely moments where I started to drift off but, overall, this is a good read for those who love biology.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    emmett Skillman, NJ, United States 09-23-12
    emmett Skillman, NJ, United States 09-23-12 Member Since 2011
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    "An Extraordinary Experience !"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Certainly would recommend this to friends - and have - especially somewhat brainy friends, curious about the biggest questions - the nature of the universe, how life got started and become what we see around us.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The depth of explanation and the reasoning behind evolutionary explanations laid out clearly with frank discussion of uncertainties; Lane presents the evidence across all of the scientific disciplines - genomics, paleontology, numerous areas of biology and mathematical modelling - and his book appears not to have been possible much before today, based on the technical advances in genomics and molecular analysis. Apart from being a noted scientist in the area, Lane must have broad cultural interests to inject into his style much humor and stylistic commentary that provides entertaining respites from places where he has found it appropriate to do a deep dive (from the layman's perspective) to get to the heart of the science on a matter.


    Have you listened to any of Graeme Malcolm’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No, This is a very good one.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    Stranger and more exciting than any Sci-Fi.


    Any additional comments?

    Those familiar with the Drake Equation - that which derives the probability of extra-terrestrial development of intelligent life from a handful of inputs, may want to revisit their calculations. Life on earth - from its start to where it is today seems a very odd mixture of remarkably fortuitous happenstance (the nature of just one type of sub-sea vent and its related chemistry, e.g.) and near or actual inevitabilities.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 07-14-10
    Tim Los Angeles, CA, United States 07-14-10 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating and infuriating"

    At times the book makes its points clearly and it is fascinating. but so much of the time it is unfocused, not content with describing natures greatest inventions, the author insists on giving equal weight to the history of thought surrounding each "invention". When he is focused, he can be witty and compelling, but you turn around for a moment, and he has put down his rifle and is wielding a blunderbus.
    For large periods it is like listening to an orchestra in which every instrument is being played at exactly the same volume; it kind of makes sense, but with no modulation, no shape to it.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bluebells Waterloo, Belgium 07-31-14
    Bluebells Waterloo, Belgium 07-31-14 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Learning too much for an audio book"

    That was a really good book, because I had the feeling to learn something new every other page. The negative point is that I had to listen twice and I even bought the paper version, because it easier to stop it than stop an audio book.

    What I did was to read/listen and try to summarize each chapter so that I could explain it in easy words to someone else.

    This book needs time. If you take the time, then you 'll enjoy it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Svlad Cjelli Takoma Park, MD, United States 04-07-12
    Svlad Cjelli Takoma Park, MD, United States 04-07-12 Member Since 2011

    Dirk

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    "A bit dense in places, but utterly fascinating"
    What did you like best about this story?

    Nick Lane offers a brilliant synopsis of the inner workings of evolution. Yes, there are irritants: He often leads you down dead end streets in discussing historical theories in some detail, only to reveal at the end that the theory you were trying to absorb is utterly wrong. And I had to pick up a hard copy of the book to read over a few passages that I could not follow easily in the audio. But the content and overall presentation is breathtaking.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dann Los Angeles, CA, United States 10-12-10
    Dann Los Angeles, CA, United States 10-12-10 Member Since 2009

    My preference for a good story is something totally unusual and not run of the mill stuff. Give me something I haven't heard before.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good stuff, but ..."

    REALLY good info, fascinating expose' of the lines of creation, but like sitting in a boring classroom with a stuffy teacher.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Georgina Atizapan de Zaragoza, Mexico 02-16-11
    Georgina Atizapan de Zaragoza, Mexico 02-16-11 Member Since 2009

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Good but difficult to follow"

    I love science books and this book just seemed the right choice. I like to be in my car driving and feeling that even in my long distance commutes I am not losing time. This book is well documented, but I felt that maybe is so crowded with scientific words, that make the material boring. I was listening and suddenly I felt like I lost attention, and I could not follow anymore. I do not know if the reader was the one to blame, however I could not finished. It was like being in a boring lecture.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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