The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it Is?Booked Out
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2019 Derek Denton Oration in Science and the Arts
Life on Earth followed a strange trajectory. The first signs of life date back 4 billion years, but for most of that time the most complex organisms were bacteria. Really complex life, composed of 'eukaryotic' cells that are strikingly different to bacteria, emerged on just one occasion around 1.5 billion years ago.
Professor Nick Lane's oration will argue that this unanticipated trajectory is not explained by genes alone, but by the peculiar mechanism through which cells generate their energy, through electrical force-fields on their membranes. Keeping this electrical force alive from generation to generation, over billions of years, could explain many longstanding puzzles from the evolution of two sexes to first stirrings of consciousness.
Nick's research is on the way that energy flow has shaped evolution, using a mixture of theoretical modelling and experimental work to address the origin of life, the evolution of complex cells and downright peculiar behaviour such as sex.