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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill…

A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)

by Bill Bryson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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19,160333137 (4.17)464
In this book Bill Bryson explores the most intriguing and consequential questions that science seeks to answer and attempts to understand everything that has transpired from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world's most profound scientific minds, living and dead. His challenge is to take subjects like geology, chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school. His interest is not simply to discover what we know but to find out how we know it. How do we know what is in the center of the earth, thousands of miles beneath the surface? How can we know the extent and the composition of the universe, or what a black hole is? How can we know where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out? On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating, eccentric, competitive, and foolish personalities ever to ask a hard question. In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge.… (more)
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» See also 464 mentions

English (298)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (6)  German (5)  Swedish (3)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  Portuguese (1)  Hungarian (1)  Piratical (1)  French (1)  All languages (332)
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
In my top 5 books of all time. This is purely a science book...except in a way its very ELI5 (explain it like I'm 5) in the way it approaches complicated subjects with Bill Bryson's mastery of writing in an easily approachable way. If you want a book to sit down, lose yourself in, and marvel at the wonders of the universe, Earth, and the human body - look no further. The audiobook read by Bryson is also incredible. ( )
  bhiggs | Apr 7, 2020 |
Not even Bill Bryson can make science interesting to read about. DNF. ( )
  AngelClaw | Mar 26, 2020 |
I doubt I'll remember more than a fraction of the hard facts in this book, but as far as perspectives go this one definitely took a toll on me.

I've read or seen many of the bigger picture events detailed in this, but the light in which it portrays them was pretty unique to me. It made me realize just how much scientific progress happened in spite of us and not because of the "human genius".

I would give it 5/5 if it weren't taking such a dive in pacing in a few chapters. The taxonomy one literally lulled me to sleep at one point. It's dense and long but most of it is captivating. I recommend it to fans of Sapiens or Guns, Germs & Steel. Besides natural history it also delves into genetics and physics, but the focus is mainly in the evolution of life. ( )
  parzivalTheVirtual | Mar 22, 2020 |
History from any one part of the Earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror . Derek V. Ager

This easily became my favorite non-fiction book of all time.

It may have been written before Higgs Boson and If you’re paying attention to the papers, a lot has came out since then in most scientific areas, but Bill Bryson does every human being a phenomenal service as a scientific communicator by providing to the layman a guide full of information about...well, everything!

From the tiniest atom to the biggest and smartest organisms the cosmos ever created, this is a true diary of our existence. It not only compiles every major research in the fields of physics, chemistry, paleontology and biology, but also delivers it in a very fluid and humorous way without detracting from the subject. To me, the cherry at the top of the cake, is the inclusion of how every scientist came to its theories and conclusions, with lots of context about the era which it was all discovered and the ruckus it caused in both the scientific community and the population.

I think it also inadvertently debunks some myths:

Not all scientists are eccentric - A lot of them were, but for each one you hear controversy or awe, you can immediately point to a more “boring” individual whose work was just as important. Usually the most eccentric you hear about are hand picked for their salacious behavior and not (just) their work. Before Einstein or Feynman, there were all kinds of personalities involved. Some of them also eccentric but in different ways. Henry Cavendish was fearful of socializing and that even prevented him from publishing works, only to be known later his discoveries were attributed to others; Richard Owen would basically steal patents from others while being a genius anatomist himself. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier was a tight team with his wife, Marie Anne, bringing clarity and method to chemistry.

Smart people believe in silly things - Maybe its because of the times they were born, but some were superstitious, others blamed aliens for our existence. And while religion was not the cause for impulsing the discoveries mentioned in the book, many scientists were indeed religious. These were the types who knew how to keep the science and faith separate. Lord Kelvin was a staunch apologist but also incredibly intelligent, with lots of discoveries under his work and built the foundations to what was to be the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But he was also a creationist (albeit not a flood guy) and it ultimately affected his calculations of Earth’s Age. Francis Crick and Leslie Orwell caused a commotion in the community by suggesting Panspermia – hypothesis that life exists throughout the universe through asteroids or other “vehicles” - extraterrestrials sent a comet to trigger the right conditions and microorganisms to create life. Francis theorized the double helix structure of the DNA molecule and got the Nobel.

Science is messy - What the people know and what scientists know can be entirely different and esoteric. The business as usual people, going to work, going to church and going to sleep for the next day, just need the basics. If they want more, they must search for it and make an effort to understand it. Scientists however, have a lot of baggage. How do you tell a person who sees the world as a black and white thing, that a certain fungus has hundreds of means of reproduction? Granted it can get a bit philosophical, but working in the field is a challenging thing. There are many reasons while consensus and peer reviewed research can get problems of bias and fraud, but they are critically important to organize and compare results from as much sources and professionals as possible. Bottom line, scientists may be on a different level but they are still human, and it can be less about debate and sharing of ideas and more like a battlefield. Edward Cope and Othenial Marsh competed violently in the discovery of fossils. Neutrino was discovered in 1957 by Frederick Reines, but was only taken seriously in 1995 along with a Prize. Even today, one does not simply put something in a computer or electronic microscope and get stuff done. A lot of manual work, waiting game and days without seeing the sun are required to get results. To get ahead, hard work is simply not enough, specially if there is no clout. Many, many times is not that religious people are dumber or poor people don’t have opportunities. It’s the status, the circles (at times charisma) that will get you noticed. At least, sooner than the others.

If you never read this book or know anyone who didn’t, this is the best gift one can give. Its educative, fun and practical. I mainly suggest this to a parent to give their children. Surely will trigger in many their curiosity and maybe, discover their passion.

NOTE: I read a beautifully done portuguese translation from Daniela Garcia, which I recommend for Portuguese speakers.

NOTA: Li uma lindissima e profissional tradução feita por Daniela Garcia, que recomendo a todos. ( )
  Igor_Veloso | Mar 5, 2020 |
*** A Deist Review ***

To me “A short history of nearly everything” is a great book, although the clear pro evolution direction in the book did to me the total opposite, it confirmed my creationist views. The book's title should simply be “A short history of nearly everything that proves God exists.” This breathtaking view that starts from the existence of Earth, all the way to the magical tiny cells that form life, is indeed nothing but a strong proof that a creator must be behind this magnificent creation. You only need to read how Bill assumes through evolution theories to confirm how Earth was created, yet a few pages along the road, he confirms that we really know nothing about the core of the Earth. He shows theories for a lot of issues, but yet confirms that our knowledge is extremely limited with no clear answers. He displays the possibility that life exists on Earth through alien asteroids, and ignores the logical explanation of a Divine creator behind the wonders that he bows to its superiority.

I believe the rejection for creation theory by evolutionists is not for the lack of logical and scientific evidence that is clearly displayed in the book, but rather of fear of submitting to historical religious institutions that have tended to ignore science and follow scripture. Evolutionists in their justified worry from the history of ignorant religious beliefs ignored the logical, overwhelming evidence for the intelligence behind every creation mentioned in the book.

It will always be a puzzle to me that anyone can believe that a pool of acids would somehow evolve into this intelligent life form that can think, see, breathe, adopt, create, move and yes evolve.
To me evolution will never be against creation, it never answers the basic question of the source for the seed of life.
The spark that ignites cells, the mystery behind DNA, the perfection of humans, animals, fruits, fish, mountains, volcanoes, oceans, atoms, sun, moon, sky, water and the endless universe, and the perfect balance that makes everything possible.

As long as evolution fails to explain life itself, this will stay to me a scientific book that religiously proofs the existence of a creator.
( )
  hivetrick | Feb 22, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 298 (next | show all)
The more I read of ''A Short History of Nearly Everything,'' the more I was convinced that Bryson had achieved exactly what he'd set out to do, and, moreover, that he'd done it in stylish, efficient, colloquial and stunningly accurate prose.
"Una breve historia de casi todo" explica como ha evolucionado el mundo para acabar siendo lo que es hoy. Explica cualquier aspecto de nuestro universo, desde el más recóndito al más conocido.
added by Jaism94 | editBill Bryson
The book's underlying strength lies in the fact that Bryson knows what it's like to find science dull or inscrutable. Unlike scientists who turn their hand to popular writing, he can claim to have spent the vast majority of his life to date knowing very little about how the universe works.

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goddijn, ServaasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gower, NeilIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Päkkilä, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The physicist Leo Szilard once announced to his friend Hans Bethe that he was thinking of keeping a diary: 'I don't intend to publish. I am merely going to record the facts for the information of God.' ''Don't you think God knows the facts?" Bethe asked. 'Yes,' said Szilard. 'He knows the facts, but He does not know this version of the facts.'
— Hans Christian von Baeyer, Taming the Atom
To Meghan and Chris. Welcome.
First words
No matter how hard you try you will never be able to grasp just how tiny, how spatially unassuming, is a proton.
They're all in the same plane. They're all going around in the same direction. . . .It's perfect, you know. It's gorgeous. It's almost uncanny. - Astronomer Geoffrey Marcy describing the solar system
Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night; / God said, Let Newton be! and all was light. - Alexander Pope
A physicist is the atoms' way of thinking about atoms. - Anonymous
The history of any one part of the Earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror. - British geologist Derek V. Ager
The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming. - Freeman Dyson
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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