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A Short History of Nearly Everything (original 2003; edition 2004)

by Bill Bryson

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15,380278119 (4.16)364
Member:bilboho
Title:A Short History of Nearly Everything
Authors:Bill Bryson
Info:Broadway (2004), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 560 pages
Collections:Your library
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003)

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English (253)  Dutch (10)  German (4)  Swedish (3)  Spanish (3)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (1)  French (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (278)
Showing 1-5 of 253 (next | show all)
Bill Bryson presents an overview of the history of the Natural Sciences, which study the rules of the natural world. This book covers significant discoveries in each field, and context of the lives from the people who discovered them. It covers the topics of Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Geology, going into detail for diversions into Cosmology, Taxonomy, Evolutionary Biology, and Microbiology.

If you're prone to anxiety and depression, pass on this book. If you have a deep understanding of the sciences already, skip the book. If you've got a shallow understanding and an interest in their history of the fields whose development is examined in this book, pick it up immediately.

While it is full of interesting anecdotes, I did not share the author's fondness for depressing stories of woe and political infighting among researchers. For instance, a man who discovered dinosaur bones was divorced, horribly injured in a carriage accident, before being discredited and ruined by a rival. I don't know why the author chose to share grisly details of his suffering, while providing only shallow information about areas related to the books' other topics such as Photonics, Metallurgy, Computing, and Electromagnetism.

I also found the book's numerous speculations on possible imminent catastrophes to be pointlessly unpleasant. It seems disasters threaten to blanket the Midwest USA in ash (causing a worldwide famine), freeze, burn, drown, and suffocate the Earth, or merely plague humanity to extinction. ( )
  wishanem | Jan 27, 2015 |
That the Earth is more than an inhospitable ball of ice or fiery blast furnace seems to be dependent on a lengthy string of happy outcomes. That humans managed to survive their own birth and rise to prominence is even more improbable. Yet here the Earth is and here we are. Bryson details it all in his folksy way, making the science almost understandable when explaining by way of our best and brightest the action of galaxies, cells, geology and plant life. This bag of thinking chemicals highly recommends. ( )
1 vote sixslug | Jan 18, 2015 |
Brilliant...absolutely brilliant...and scary. ( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
I'm a huge huge Bill Bryson fan but I still approached this book with some trepidation. It seemed so very serious, how could anyone, even Bryson, make reading about science fun and interesting?

Well, somehow Bryson made a topic that usually bores me to sleep into a must read book. His stories and writing style just speak to me. When I pick up one of Brysons book I expect to be entertained. In [b:A Short History of Nearly Everything|21|A Short History of Nearly Everything|Bill Bryson|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1386925434s/21.jpg|2305997] not only was I entertained but I was taught hugely fascinating things about the world we live in. Bryson has made me more curious, interested and knowledgeable about subjects that I would never have touched with a 10 foot pole before.

Plus, I think this will give me a step up when it comes to pub quizzes! ( )
1 vote sscarllet | Nov 20, 2014 |
I just love this book. Bryson explains so much and does it so clearly that I want to reread it again and again. ( )
  PaulDW | Oct 14, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 253 (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 (15 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goddijn, ServaasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Matthews, RichardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Päkkilä, MarkkuTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vlek, RonaldTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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.
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 076790818X, Paperback)

From primordial nothingness to this very moment, A Short History of Nearly Everything reports what happened and how humans figured it out. To accomplish this daunting literary task, Bill Bryson uses hundreds of sources, from popular science books to interviews with luminaries in various fields. His aim is to help people like him, who rejected stale school textbooks and dry explanations, to appreciate how we have used science to understand the smallest particles and the unimaginably vast expanses of space. With his distinctive prose style and wit, Bryson succeeds admirably. Though A Short History clocks in at a daunting 500-plus pages and covers the same material as every science book before it, it reads something like a particularly detailed novel (albeit without a plot). Each longish chapter is devoted to a topic like the age of our planet or how cells work, and these chapters are grouped into larger sections such as "The Size of the Earth" and "Life Itself." Bryson chats with experts like Richard Fortey (author of Life and Trilobite) and these interviews are charming. But it's when Bryson dives into some of science's best and most embarrassing fights--Cope vs. Marsh, Conway Morris vs. Gould--that he finds literary gold. --Therese Littleton

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:32 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

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)

(summary from another edition)

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