The Equations of Life

Charles Cockell

RRP: £18.99

28 June 2018

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781786493026

RRP: £10.99

28 June 2018

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781786493057

One of Britain’s foremost astrobiologists offers an accessible and game-changing account of life on Earth.

Why do gazelles have legs and not wheels? Why is all life based on carbon rather than silicon? And beyond Earth, would life – if it exists – look like our own? The puzzles of life astound and confuse us like no other mystery. But in this groundbreaking book, Professor Charles Cockell reveals how nature is far more understandable and predictable than we would think.

Breathing new life into Darwin’s theory of natural selection, The Equations of Life puts forward an elegant account of why evolution has taken the paths it has. In a captivating journey into the forces that shape living things on Earth, Cockell explains that the fundamental laws of physics constrain nature at every turn. Fusing the latest in scientific research with fascinating accounts of the creatures that surround us, this is a compelling argument about what life can – and can’t – be.


Riveting... Cockell is not only a fine scientist but a fine writer too.
Sir Martin Rees – Astronomer Royal and former President of the Royal Society

An intriguing and enthralling adventure into the physics of life that is all around us and inside us. Cockell provides a reminder of the seeming rarity of all this beauty but also an invitation to look up to the skies and ask 'where else might something like this be?
Robin Ince – Presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Infinite Monkey Cage

Magisterial and collegial, this may be the biology book of the year

Fascinating . . . Cockell offers surprising insights
Sean Carroll, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe

A lucid, provocative argument that the dazzling variety of organisms produced by 4 billion years of evolution may seem unbounded, but all follow universal laws.

An invaluable guide... Life is generally described as a matter of contingency: what we find in nature is the result of countless historical accidents. In The Equations of Life, Charles Cockell provides an important counterbalance to that picture.
Philip Ball, author of Critical Mass

Enlightening and entertaining... Whether on this third rock from the Sun or another planet in a far-distant galaxy, creatures should share forms and behaviours shaped by the forces of natural selection and the fundamental laws of physics that reign throughout the universe.
Lee Billings, author of Five Billion Years of Solitude

Fascinating. A profound exploration of the deep nexus between physics and biology.
Andreas Wagner, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Zürich and author of Arrival of the Fittest