From More Intelligent Life:

EnergyIN JAMES WHALE'S 1931 film of “Frankenstein”, the monster is brought to life as his creator imagined God’s first creatures to have been: by lightning. “Behold!” Victor cries, as the storm lashes his laboratory and its metal armatures begin to glow. “The great ray that first brought life into the world.” A couple of decades later, in a ground-breaking foray into the science of life’s origins, the biochemist Stanley Miller used high-voltage sparks to produce some amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. His Chicago laboratory was less dramatic than Victor’s, but the idea was the same: a flask of gases represented the atmosphere of the early Earth; the sparks, its lightning.

There is lightning, too, in a wonderful new book by Nick Lane, a biochemist at University College London, and, I should add, a friend of mine. “The Vital Question”, rated “masterful”, “epic” and “scintillating” by the critics, contains as convincing an account of the origins of life as any now on offer. And it also contains lightning—but as a comparator, not an instigator. The strength of the electric field across the membranes that allow living things to capture the energy they need is a startling 30m volts per metre: the same sort of strength seen in the fields that tear open thunderclouds. Lane belongs to a small and persuasive cabal that is using studies of the way cells access energy to gain insight into all sorts of questions, from why there are different sexes to why creatures grow old (and—a personal favourite—why birds age much more slowly than other creatures of their size). The cabal takes Theodosius Dobzhansky’s well-worn dictum, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, and adds that nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of energetics.

More here.