Thursday, August 20, 2015

LIFE ON THE EDGE : The coming of age of Quantum Biology - Book Review

     I'm a science nerd. 
     I ended up in the legal profession but my first degrees (bachelor's, master's) were in science--my first love-- and I like to follow what's going on on that world. So I was excited to get a copy of the book I'm reviewing today.

Title: Life on the Edge: The coming of age of quantum biology
Authors: Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili
Publisher: Crown Publishing, 2014
Adult Nonfiction
Synopsis: A retrospective on quantum science and it's application in the field of biology, exploring the ways quantum science can answer questions about what it means to be alive.

What I liked about this book:  The authors discuss the mind-bending theories of quantum mechanics using concrete examples of animal behavior and human biology. How do robins migrate? How do enzymes and genes propagate efficiently and error-free? How can photosynthesis proceed as quickly as it does? The field of quantum mechanics is as complex as life itself, and the authors take time to examine how being in two places at once, spooky connections and travel through impenetrable barriers is reality, not science fiction.
     This being said, I wouldn't recommend this book to someone without some background in science or a serious desire to learn more. Despite the use of helpful figures, an overview isn't enough to explain some of the concepts and I found myself needing to reread sections.
     My favorite parts? Contemplating the rearrangement of molecules from tadpole to frog. Envisioning the creative thinking process when Nobel prize-winner Dudley Herschbach asked German researcher Klaus Schulten "where in the bird is the laser?" (p. 190) And most of all the comparison of decoherence dampening in laboratories (reducing noise) as compared to biologic systems (using noise). References to the noise of "crisps bags" in the theater took me fondly back to the time we lived in West Byfleet, Surrey, not far from where these researchers work! It's a small world after all --or perhaps entanglement of a non quantum variety.

If you're interested in learning more, the authors have links to more information and speeches on the subjects covered in the book. I included links to their websites in the author line above.

Note: I received a review copy from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thanks for stopping by! I love to know what you think of my selections.


  1. I'm definitely putting this on my to-read list (right after The Particle At The End Of The Universe...which is taking me a while since I'm taking notes as I read, and I don't often get to sit to read; I'm usually reading while brushing my teeth or listening to audiobooks while baking or doing housework). :)

    1. The adult titles certainly take longer than the kids ones. Kudos to you if you can do two things at once.

  2. Great review! It sounds interesting! :)

    1. Thanks, Erik! You could impress a lot of science teachers at school with this one. :)