Nautilus

Yes, Life in the Fast Lane Kills You

Nick Lane is an evolutionary biochemist at University College London who thinks about the big questions of life: how it began, how it is maintained, why we age and die, and why we have sex. Shunning the habit of our times to regard these as questions for evolutionary genetics, Lane insists that our fundamental biochemical mechanisms—particularly those through which living cells generate energy—may determine or limit these facts of life.

Lane has been steadily constructing an alternative, complementary view of evolution to the one in which genes compete for reproductive success and survival. He has argued that some of the big shifts during evolutionary history, such as the appearance of complex cells called eukaryotes (like our own) and the emergence of multicellular life forms, are best understood by considering the energetic constraints.

it’s all in the energy: Nick Lane believes the secret to long life lies with the mitochondria. Wide Eyed Entertainment, LTD.

Lane’s book Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution was awarded the 2010 Royal Society Science Books Prize, the top prize in the United Kingdom for books on science. His 2015 book The Vital Question: Why Is Life the Way It Is? has been described as “game-changing” and “brimming with bold and important ideas.” It offers a new, detailed model for how life might have begun by harnessing the incipient chemical energy at deep-sea vents. Bill Gates called The Vital Question “an amazing inquiry into the origins of life.”

Nautilus caught up with Lane in his laboratory in London and asked him about his ideas on aging, sex, and death.


In your book Power, Sex, Suicide you ask, “When did the drive for sex become punishable by death, and why?” What do you mean?

Sex evolved with complex cells. If we go back to bacteria, they don’t do sex as we know it. They do something similar—they swap genes, which is essentially what sex is doing: It’s moving genes around. But we’re combining them in different ways. The complex, eukaryotic

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