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Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution by Nick Lane
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Life Ascending Quotes Showing 1-30 of 32
“Nothing is more conservative than a bacterium.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Petty human squabbles over borders and oil and creed vanish in the knowledge that this living marble surrounded by infinite emptiness is our shared home, and more, a home we share with, and owe to, the most wonderful inventions of life.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“If you resolve to give up smoking, drinking and loving, you don’t actually live longer, it just seems longer.’1”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“We should not be too quick to dismiss our own [ocular] arrangement. As so often in biology, the situation is more complex.....we have the advantage that our own light-sensitive cells are embedded directly in their support cells (the retinal pigment epithelium) with an excellent blood supply immediately underneath. Such an arrangement supports the continuous turnover of photosensitive pigments. The human retina consumes even more oxygen than the brain, per gram, making it the most energetic organ in the body.”
nick lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“If all these considerations are correct, then the appearance of eyes really could have ignited the Cambrian explosion. And if that’s the case, then the evolution of the eye must certainly number among the most dramatic and important events in the whole history of life on earth.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Life itself turned our planet blue and green, as tiny photosynthetic bacteria cleansed the oceans of air and sea, and filled them with oxygen. Powered by this new and potent source of energy, life erupted. Flowers bloom and beckon, intricate corals hide darting gold fish, vast monsters lurk in black depths, trees reach for the sky, animals buzz and lumber and see. And in the midst of it all, we are moved by the untold mysteries of this creation, we cosmic assemblies of molecules that feel and think and marvel and wonder at how we came to be here.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“To doubt that life evolved, even if some of the details described in this book may yet prove wrong, is to doubt the convergence of evidence, from molecules to men, from bacteria to planetary systems. It is to doubt the evidence of biology, and its concordance with physics and chemistry, geology and astronomy. It is to doubt the veracity of experiment and observation, to doubt the testing in reality. It is, in the end, to doubt reality.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“The myosin in our own skeletal muscles is more closely related to the myosin driving the flight muscles of that irritating housefly buzzing around your head than it is to the myosin in the muscles of your own sphincters”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Men are even worse: a hundred rounds of cell division are needed to make sperm, with each round linked inexorably to more mutations. Because sperm production goes on throughout life, round after round of cell division, the older the man, the worse it gets. As the geneticist James Crow put it, the greatest mutational health hazard in the population is fertile old men.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Thermodynamics is one of those words best avoided in a book with any pretence to be popular, but it is more engaging if seen for what it is: the science of 'desire'. The existence of atoms and molecules is dominated by 'attractions', 'repulsions', 'wants' and 'discharges', to the point that it becomes virtually impossible to write about chemistry without giving in to some sort of randy anthromorphism. Molecules 'want' to lose or gain electrons; attract opposite charges; repulse similar charges; or cohabit with molecules of similar character. A chemical reaction happens spontaneously if all the molecular partners desire to participate; or they can be pressed to react unwillingly through greater force. And of course some molecules really want to react but find it hard to overcome their innate shyness. A little gentle flirtation might prompt a massive release of lust, a discharge of pure energy. But perhaps I should stop there.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“All life on our planet is related, and the readout of letters in DNA shows exactly how. By comparing DNA sequences, we can compute statistically how closely related we are to anything, from monkeys to marsupials, to reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, crustaceans, worms, plants, protozoa, bacteria–you name it.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Core consciousness operates in the present, rebuilding itself moment by moment, mapping out how the self is altered by external objects, draping perceptions with feelings. Extended consciousness uses the same mechanisms, but now binds memories and language into each moment of core consciousness, qualifying emotional meaning with autobiographical past, labelling feelings and objects with words, and so on. Thus extended consciousness builds on emotional meaning, integrating memory, language, past and future, into the here and now of core consciousness. The selfsame neural handshaking mechanisms allow a vast expansion of parallel circuitry to be bound back into a single moment of perception.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“But whatever our beliefs, this richness of understanding should be a cause for marvel and celebration.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“With these new techniques, a new breed of evolutionist is emerging, able to capture the workings of evolution in real time. The picture so painted is breathtaking in its wealth of detail and its compass, ranging from the subatomic to the planetary scale. And that is why I said that, for the first time in history, we know. Much of our growing body of knowledge is provisional, to be sure, but it is vibrant and meaningful. It is a joy to be alive at this time, when we know so much, and yet can still look forward to so much more.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Cambrian period, some 550 million years ago, soon after a big global rise in atmospheric oxygen.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Genius, it is said, is the ability to see the obvious before anyone else.4”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“but mammals have at their disposal ten times the resources, they”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“This second type of vent is not volcanic, and there’s no magma involved. Instead, it depends on the reaction of these freshly exposed rocks with seawater. Water doesn’t just percolate into such rocks: it physically reacts with them; it is incorporated into them, altering their structure to form hydroxide minerals like serpentine (named after its resemblance to the mottled green scales of a serpent). The reaction with seawater expands the rock, causing it to crack and fracture, which in turn permits further seawater to penetrate, perpetuating the process. The scale of such reactions is astonishing. The volume of water bound into rock in this way is believed to equal the volume of the oceans themselves. As”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Once the little squirt has found a suitable home, it attaches itself soundly to the spot and then, needing it no longer, reabsorbs its own brain (a feat that arouses much admiration among university professors, Steve Jones quips).”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“was a world on which life emerged, 3,800 million years ago, perhaps animated by something of the restlessness of the planet itself.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“there isn’t a full consensus among experts. But strip away a few more skins from the onion of time and, by 3,400 million years ago,”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“Bacteria dominated our planet for another 2,500 million years before the first truly complex organisms appeared in the fossil record.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“A night in the arms of Venus, it was said, led to a lifetime on Mercury.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“The first true eyes appeared somewhat abruptly in the fossil record around 540 million”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“The shrimp's protein and ours are not exactly the same, but they're so
similar that if you turned up in court and tried to convince a judge that your
version was not a badly concealed plagiarism, you'd be very unlikely to win.
In fact, you'd be a laughing stock, for rhodopsin is not restricted to vent shrimp
and humans but is omnipresent throughout the animal kingdom.... Trying to persuade a judge that your rhodopsin is not plagiarised
would be like trying to clajm that your television set is fundamentally different
from everyone else's, just because it's bigger or has a flat screen.”
nick lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“We now know that free-radical signals are central to cell physiology, so we can begin to see why antioxidants (which mop up free radicals) do as much harm as good.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“For that matter, how do we switch from simple chemical affiliations to selection for proteins? And how do we get from RNA to DNA? As it happens, there are some striking answers, backed up by surprising findings in the last few years. Gratifyingly, the new findings square beautifully with the idea of life evolving in hydrothermal vents, the setting of Chapter 1.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“It’s not just lifespan that varies with free-radical leak, health span does”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“If free-radical leak is fast, degenerative diseases set in quickly; if it’s slow, they’re postponed or even abrogated altogether.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution
“this chapter is different from the other chapters in this book, in that not only does science not (yet) know the answer, but at present we can barely conceive of how that answer might look in terms of the known laws of physics or biology or information.”
Nick Lane, Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

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