[ blog » 2020 ]Book: The Vital Question (by Philipp Gesang, location: the armchair)

The Vital Question by Nick Lane (2015)

An incredibly detailed tour of respiration and how it shaped the origin of the three domains of life. The chapter “What is Living” actually traces the path an individual electron takes through the respiratory complex, naming each location in the subcomponents of these proteins where it pulls a proton across the membrane. In the inverse direction, the cost of ATP synthesis is stated in terms of protons returning across the membrane and thus ultimately electrons used in respiration; Lane makes a convincing case that ATP synthase is the most amazing mechanical device on the planet. This is the level of detail at which science books should be written.

The chapter “Sex and the Origins of Death” deals to some extent with introns and their differences in prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Which raises the question: couldn’t a transcribed gene that has been processed by a spliceosome be used to replace the original gene in the DNA e. g. by means of some reverse transcriptase? The result should be functionally equivalent while at the same time reducing the cost in ATP for transcription and meiosis.


Verdict: Belongs on every bookshelf.