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A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003)

by Bill Bryson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
21,074373142 (4.18)495
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)
Recently added byprivate library, LauraClayton, rageforthemachine, DrewLibrary, cloidl, BedlamLibrary
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    Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin (meggyweg)
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    News from an Unknown Universe by Frank Schätzing (Dariah)
  9. 00
    Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens by Andrea Wulf (themulhern)
    themulhern: Both books stick to the science adventure, and go rather light on the actual science. "Chasing Venus" is about the decade long effort to calculate the value of the astronomical unit; Bryson's book is more shallow and broad.
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    Some Remarks: Essays and Other Writing by Neal Stephenson (themulhern)
    themulhern: The same sort of rollicking verve about science in "A Short History of Nearly Everything" as in the essay 'Mother Earth; Mother Board".
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    Knowledge and Wonder by Victor F. Weisskopf (erik_galicki)
    erik_galicki: Weisskopf is more concise, more cohesive, and less anecdotal than Bryson. I consider Weisskopf a more enlightening but less entertaining alternate.
  13. 12
    Almost Everyone's Guide to Science: The Universe, Life and Everything by John Gribbin (Noisy)
    Noisy: If you find Bryson too lightweight, then the next step is to Gribbin. Gribbin goes all the way from the smallest scale (sub-atomic particles) to the largest (the universe).
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» See also 495 mentions

English (337)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (7)  German (5)  Swedish (3)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (1)  Piratical (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (373)
Showing 1-5 of 337 (next | show all)
A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition by Bill Bryson (2005)
  sharibillops | May 20, 2022 |
I had been recommended Bill Bryson by many people and chanced upon this book first. It was indeed well written.
This book is a history of scientific discoveries, covering Physics, Cosmology, Chemistry, Biology, Palaeontology, Geology, Oceanography, and more. It made a good overall roundup of scientific knowledge we have accumulated over time, and included quirky facts not necessarily relevant, but made the book fun to read. I particularly liked the idea of Halley being paid by the Royal Society in copies of De Historia Piscium, the book that brought their finances to near bankruptcy, because they could not afford his salary: and the difference between organic and inorganic chemistry as chemicals that contain the force "élan vital" that brings inanimate object to life, and chemical which do not have it: and learning of how Aldous Huxley used J. B. S. Haldane's views on the genetic manipulation of humans to develop his plot for Brave New World.
Some great illustrations, plus notes and index, and an extensive bibliography that includes An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks; Edmund Halley on opium, weather maps, and the diving bell; Newton's Principia (written at the request of Halley to describe the elliptical motions of the planets, but went on to describe the laws of physics. Newton made it intentionally difficult to access so that he wouldn't be pestered by mathematical "smatterers"); Richard Fortey; Stephen Jay Gould's Eight Little Piggies, which describes James Ussher (1650), the man who concluded the Earth was created at midday on 23rd October 4004 BC; Huxley's Point Counter Point, with the character based on John Scott Haldane, the absent-minded professor of physiology at Oxford; Huxley's Antic Hay, with the character based on Haldane's son, J. B. S. Haldane who popularised science and experimented on himself and volunteers (including friends and family).
Overall a good update from my own scientific knowledge (although slightly out-dated in places since it's publication, for example NASA's DART mission would have made a great inclusion to the chapter on impacts from space on the earth). ( )
  AChild | May 19, 2022 |
Very interesting. Perfect book to jump start my offseason reading; short, self-contained chapters about a topic that kept me interested all the way through. I'm definitely going to read more Bryson. ( )
  dan.chilton | May 12, 2022 |
Ótrúlega aðgengileg frásögn af vísindauppgötvum frá örófi alda. Líkt og titillinn ber með sér þá er umfjöllunarefni víðtækt og Bryson fjallar um þróun þekkingar á umheiminum, stóra hvelli, aldri jarðar, bakteríum, spendýrum o.fl. o.fl.
Frásögnin er aðgengileg og krydduð lýsingum af sérvitrum vísindamönnum sem gerðu geysimerkilegar uppgötvanir og stungu þeim niður í skúffu af því þeir voru sjálfir í eigin heimi, öðrum sem rændu heiðri miskunnarlaust, sérvitringum sem flúðu á hlaupum undan samræðum við annað fólk o.s.frv.
Mæli eindregið með lestri þessarar bókar. Eftir stendur hve ótrúlega lítið við vitum um okkar nánasta umhverfi og okkur sjálf á meðan fróðleikur um stjarnkerfið eykst hröðum skrefum. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
The famed, yet relentlessly average at best author Bryson, with peculiar travelogues, delivers the science-focused book A Short History of Everything, Solidly well-written, Bryson covers fundamental pillars of science, yet aided with excellent statistics, along with an extensive bibliography list. Notwithstanding, the main detractors encompass the semi-biographical-like work, introducing an excessive number of scientists, the lack of expertise of the author rendering in several questionable areas, and, albeit an inexplicably apparent flaw, surrounding the outdatedness of the text. Despite those minor blemishes, Bryson narrates a readable summary with congruous and recognisable humour (i.e., the overall cynicism displayed towards the complex languages of quantum mechanics), that I would indubitably recommend for general readers. ( )
  BGADESYN | Apr 9, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 337 (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 (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bouillot, FrançoiseTraductionsecondary authorsome 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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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
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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.

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