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Life on the Edge : The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology - Jim Al-Khalili

Life on the Edge

The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology

Paperback Published: 1st December 2015
ISBN: 9780552778077
Number Of Pages: 464

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The startling discovery that the weirdness of quantum mechanics provides the vital spark that ignites life

Life is the most extraordinary phenomenon in the known universe; but how does it work? Even in this age of cloning and synthetic 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 missing a vital ingredient in its creation?

Like Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene, which provided a new perspective on evolution, Life on the Edge alters our understanding of life's dynamics as Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe Macfadden reveal the hitherto missing ingredient to be quantum mechanics. Drawing on recent ground-breaking experiments around the world, they show how photosynthesis relies on subatomic particles existing in many places at once, while inside enzymes, those workhorses of life that make every molecule within our cells, particles vanish from one point in space and instantly materialize in another.

Each chapter in Life on the Edge opens with an engaging example that 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 manage to copy themselves with such precision? – and then reveals how quantum mechanics delivers its answer. Guiding the reader through the maze of rapidly unfolding discovery, Al-Khalili and McFadden communicate vividly the excitement of this explosive new field of quantum biology, with its potentially revolutionary applications, and also offer insights into the biggest puzzle of all: what is life?

About the Author

Professor 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. Professor Johnjoe McFadden is Professor of Molecular Genetics at the University of Surrey and is the editor of leading text books on both molecular biology and systems biology of tuberculosis. For over a decade, he has specialised in examining tuberculosis and meningitis.

Industry Reviews

"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." -- Tom Whipple * The Times *
"Physicist Jim Al-Khalili and molecular biologist Johnjoe McFadden explore this extraordinary realm with cogency and wit." * Nature Magazine *
"A really original science book about a new field of research ... Groundbreaking." -- Clive Cookson * Financial Times *
"This thrilling book is an overview of a field that barely exists ... Al-Khalili has a genius for illustrating complex ideas via imaginative sidetracks." * The Sunday Telegraph *
"'Life on the Edge' gives the clearest account I've ever read of the possible ways in which the very small events of the quantum world can affect the world of middle-sized living creatures like us. With great vividness and clarity it shows how our world is tinged, even saturated, with the weirdness of the quantum." * Philip Pullman *

Quantum Biology is NOT Biology


It is a discipline across mathematics, physics and chemistry to study a biological system. A Bachelor of Science graduate majoring in chemistry who completed studies of physics only at undergraduate year one level or above should not encounter any difficulties to read this book.

Melbourne, Australia


Fascinating book about groundbreaking new science


This book presents complex scientific ideas in ways laymen can understand (some pages may need a few reads to fully grasp the concepts). Quantum biology is a fascinating new field of research and Life On The Edge definitely deserves the attention of anyone interested in the strange, wonderful science of the quantum world.

Melbourne, Australia


Life on the Edge: the coming of age of quantum biology


A well written book that brilliantly explains a difficult subject. Engrossing.

Drouin, Victoria



5.0 3


ISBN: 9780552778077
ISBN-10: 0552778079
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 464
Published: 1st December 2015
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 19.7 x 12.5  x 2.9
Weight (kg): 0.32

Earn 41 Qantas Points
on this Book