by Matthew Cobb
Nick Lane of University College London has just been awarded the Royal Society’s 2016 Michael Faraday Prize and Lecture, which “is awarded annually to the scientist or engineer whose expertise in communicating scientific ideas in lay terms is exemplary”. Nick is a brilliant writer of several books, including Life Ascending and, most recently The Vital Question, which Bill Gates fell in love with. (You can find more about his work, which has been translated into 25 languages, here).
Nick is also a leading researcher on the origin of life, and in particular on the way that eukaryotes – organisms with a nucleus and above all with mitochondria – came about. His research and his way with words led to him being awarded the Prize this year, which is much deserved.
As you’ll have noticed from the title of the award, he also got to give a lecture at the Royal Society, which took place at the award ceremony on 1 February. His title was also the subtitle of The Vital Question – Why Is Life The Way It Is? The Royal Society has been incredibly speedy about editing the video and here it is, for your delectation.
It’s 55 minutes long (there are 2 mins of introductory remarks you can skip over before you get to the citation, and then the talk) so you need to take your time, or bookmark it for later viewing. It is highly recommended, with some very important and complicated ideas being put over in a simple and engaging manner – exactly really is brilliant, and will help you understand why we all are the way we are.
[JAC: I echo Matthew’s enthusiasm; if you have an hour to spare, and can enlarge this (there are slides), you’ll learn a lot from this video.]