The Notebook.

A bunch of possibly interesting things.

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


I know I said I would do books two at a time, but this one took me about 20 days to read (due to circumstances out of my control), and so I am going to do it standalone.

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



Price (As of writing): £13.60 in Amazon (reduced from £20)

Publishers Synopsis: 

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 how evolution works, Life on the Edge alters our understanding of life's dynamics. Bringing together first-hand experience of science at the cutting edge with unparalleled gifts of exposition and explanation, Jim Al-Khalili and Johnjoe Macfadden reveal the hitherto missing ingredient to be quantum mechanics and the strange phenomena that lie at the heart of this most mysterious of sciences. 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? As they brilliantly demonstrate here, life lives on the quantum edge.


This is possibly one of the best written books I have ever read. It is written in a nice easy to read manner that still pushes across the complexity of the topic. It is a relatively large book (not as long as some, but certainly longer than The Sixth Extinction and Nothing) but I felt a sort of conciseness while reading it - it never appeared to drag on any longer than it needed to. The chapter on photosynthesis and others had nice analogies and anecdotes to go along with them such as the anecdote about the MIT Researchers trying to make a Quantum Computer. This book really opened my mind to biology and the interlinking of the sciences. It also explains the Quantum stuff very well to someone who may not have read about it before. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys biology or physics.