#StevesLibrary: Oxygen: The Molecule That Made the World

Some of you may remember that I went to see Nick Lane give a talk at the Linnean Society of London back in March. I’d been aware of Nick’s research for a while involving the evolution of life. For those of you who aren’t aware with this very brilliant man, Nick is a professor in evolutionary biochemistry at University College London (UCL) and has authored four popular science books – all which have won awards. This blog post is of course about one of these books – one which I read whilst I was out in Malaysia conducting research on Mount Kinabalu. I may cover my experiences whilst there at a later date so keep an eye out. Back to the task in had! In Oxygen, Nick takes us (the reader) on an journey through time as he explains the unexpected ways in which oxygen, that most vital of gases, spurred the evolution of life and death. This involves the the birth of photosynthesis, the sudden evolution of animals and the need for two sexes. Surprising consequences (at least in my mind) include the long lives of flying animals such as bats and birds. I’m sure like me, that once you’ve read this book you will have a changed viewpoint of the world, especially seeing as oxygen itself is a highly toxic gas.

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