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A preview of Life Ascending

NCSE is pleased to offer a free preview of Nick Lane's Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution (W. W. Norton, 2009) — featuring the chapter "Hot Blood: Breaking the Energy Barrier." Lane writes (PDF), "hot blood exacts a cruel toll. It spells a short life, spent eating dangerously. It depresses the population size and the number of offspring, two factors that should be penalised ruthlessly by natural selection. In recompense we have the boon of staying up at night and hanging out in the cold. That seems a poor deal, especially if we go to sleep anyway. Yet in the great pantheon of life, we routinely give top billing to the mammals and birds. What exactly is it that we have but the reptiles don’t? It had better be good." The reviewer for Nature commented, "Excellent and imaginative and, similar to life itself, the book is full of surprises."