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

by Bill Bryson (Author)

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21,303378146 (4.17)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)
Member:Lorne16ha
Title:A Short History of Nearly Everything
Authors:Bill Bryson (Author)
Info:Transworld Pub (2004), Edition: New Ed, 686 pages
Collections:Your library
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (2003)

Recently added byprivate library, ejmw, ArcherKel, daicon, rosaroxxie, Nrg8000, kumbulus, allanahk
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    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.
  10. 00
    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.
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    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 (338)  Dutch (11)  Spanish (8)  German (5)  Swedish (3)  Italian (3)  Catalan (2)  French (2)  Portuguese (1)  Piratical (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (375)
Showing 1-5 of 338 (next | show all)
Bryson is always good to read, but to me this book seemed a kind of earnest compilation in the style of Isaac Asimov's many factual books. ( )
  sfj2 | Jul 21, 2022 |
A tudomány és vallás közötti leglényegibb különbséget abban szokás megragadni, hogy míg az egyik egzakt bizonyítási eljárással kell igazolja hipotéziseit, addig a másik ezt nem igényli, hanem egy személyesen megélt hitre támaszkodik, ami nem igényel bizonyítást – vagy helyesebben: önmagát bizonyítja. Ugyanakkor azzal, hogy a tudomány diszciplínái elképesztően bonyolulttá váltak, eljutottunk oda, hogy egyes állításaikat a hozzájuk tartozó magyarázatokkal csak a legszűkebb elit képes felfogni, következésképpen a laikusnak nem marad más választása, mint elhinni (vagy nem hinni el) őket. Így aztán a fenn említett lényegi különbség elmosódik, és inkább hasonlóságnak tekinthető – mindkettő inkább személyesen megélt hiten, mint egy egzakt bizonyítás megértésén alapul. Ez a mai napság igen sikeres áltudományok mindegyikének a titka: sokkal emészthetőbb, tetszetősebb, felfoghatóbb magyarázatokkal képesek megkínálni a pórnépet, mint a mainstream tudományosság. A holokauszttagadás megértéséhez kevesebbet kell utánaolvasni, mint magához a holokauszthoz, a laposföldesek magyarázata átláthatóbb logikai sémákkal operál, mint a geológusoké vagy a csillagászoké, a sumér-magyar rokonság pedig vonzóbb opciót kínál, mint a természeténél fogva igen összetett (mondhatni, zavaros) folyamatábra a magyar törzsekkel, akik bár nyelvükben finnugorok, de türk és szláv és német jövevényszavakat szedtek fel, genetikai vizsgálataik pedig valami egészen kibogozhatatlan katyvaszt mutatnak.

Ezért hát amit Bryson csinál, az egész egyszerűen megfizethetetlen. Egyfajta közvetítő közegként (vagy nevezzük tolmácsnak) működik: egy laikus*, aki odamegy a tudósokhoz, kérdezgeti őket, aztán az egészet lefordítja emberi nyelvre. Erről szól ez a könyv. És közben meg humoros és figyelemfelkeltő, mert Bryson remekül érzi, mivel lehet megfogni az olvasót – Newton elméleteinél jobban megragadja a fantáziánkat, hogy micsoda habókjai voltak, a kisbolygók mozgásával kapcsolatos információk elmélyülését pedig valószínűleg az segíti a legjobban, ha érzékeltetik velünk, hogy bármelyik percben a fejünkre eshetnek. Kifejezetten szép továbbá, ahogy érzékelteti, a tudományos elméleteknek is van életkoruk: előbb kisgyermekek, akikről mindenki azt mondja, hogy aranyosak, de a kutya nem veszi komolyan őket**, aztán izomtól duzzadó, riválisaikat maguk alá gyűrő potens hímek, végül pedig aggastyánok, akik attól rettegnek, hogy jön a trónkövetelő, és leszkanderozza valamennyiüket. Bryson hatásvadász, igaz, és helyenként bizonyosan bűnösen leegyszerűsítő is, de hát a fene vigye el, hát hány évmilliárdot próbál összefoglalni? A világűrt, a fizikát, a kémiát, az élővilágot, majdnem mindent, bő négyszáz oldalban (plusz lábjegyzet), mégpedig végig szórakoztatóan – mi ez, ha nem egy csoda? Szóval ezt a könyvet csak megköszönni lehet.

Elolvastam. Tehát már majdnem mindent tudok.

* Ezt amúgy bitang fontosnak érzem – hogy egy laikus magyaráz nekünk. Mert egy tudós, bármilyen közérthető is legyen, a tudományos nyelvben, a tudományos gondolkodásban él, következésképpen egyáltalán nem biztos, hogy megérti, miért nem érti meg őt egy laikus. Egyszerűen nem tudja magát a helyébe képzelni, nem látja, hol és miért veszítette el az a fonalat. Viszont az, aki maga is laikus, ezekre a veszélyekre jobban fel tud készülni.
** Tanulságos, hogy például a Pangea-elméletet*** annak idején a tudósok kábé épp olyan sületlenségnek gondolták, mint ma mondjuk az ezoterikus Atlantisz-elméleteket. Azonban az Atlantisz-hívők ne örüljenek, mert ez nem azt jelenti, hogy nekik is egyszer éppúgy igazuk lesz, mint a Pangea-elmélet híveinek – ehhez ugyanis először el kellene fogadniuk, hogy a tudományos élet kívánalmainak megfelelően egzakt bizonyítást szállítanak a hipotézis mellé.
*** Hogy az ősidőkben létezett egyetlen „szuperkontinens”, ami később a tektonikus mozgások folytán a ma ismert kontinensekre szakadt szét. ( )
  Kuszma | Jul 2, 2022 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 338 (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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