Friday, June 13, 2014

Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything
From A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson:
Open quote 

That to me remained the greatest of all amazements -- how scientists work things out. How does anybody know how much the Earth weighs or how old its rocks are or what really is way down there in the center? How can they know how and when the universe started and what it was like when it did? How do they know what goes on inside an atom?"

After the jump, my review.

Grade: B-

If you want to know the answers to the questions posed in the extract above, this is the book for you. Not only does Bryson tell you, for example, how much the earth weighs, he answers questions from astronomy, cosmology, geology, biology, chemistry, physics and on and on. He crams (nearly) the whole history of science into one book. That means his pace is fast. Blink and he's on to another subject. But that works well for his purpose of covering (nearly) everything.

Not only does Bryson tell the science behind the questions, he tells you the story of the scientists who figured it out. It's this human aspect to science that is the most satisfying thing about this book. Science is not a collection of dry facts. It's a human endeavor, perhaps the activity that most sets us apart from all the other species who have ever lived. Bryson does an admirable job of cramming our own species' greatest accomplishment, our growing understanding of the universe in which we live, into one short, enjoyable read.

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