Sarai's Reviews > A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
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's review
Feb 04, 2016

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction, read-in-2012, science
Read from September 25 to October 08, 2012

A great intro to science and our not-so-humble beginnings.

Some of my favorite quotes:
"Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stuck fast, untimely wounded or otherwise deflected from its life's quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result - eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly--in you."

"Using huge amounts of energy, [physicists] can whip particles into such a state of liveliness that a single electron can do forty-seven thousand laps around a four-mile tunnel in a second."

You read that right. That's 47,000 laps around a 4-mile tunnel in a SECOND.
"Even the most substantial ocean creatures are often remarkably little known to us—including the most mighty of them all, the great blue whale, a creature of such leviathan proportions that (to quote David Attenborough) its 'tongue weighs as much as an elephant, its heart is the size of a car and some of its blood vessels are so wide that you could swim down them.'"

"The fact is, we don't know. Don't have any idea. We don't know when we started doing many of the things we've done. We don't know what we are doing right now or how our present actions will affect the future. What we do know is that there is only one planet to do it on, and only one species of being capable of making a considered difference. Edward O. Wilson expressed it with unimprovable brevity in The Diversity of Life: "One planet, one experiment."

Bill Bryson has a wonderful talent for sprinkling humor throughout all the scientific facts that he repeatedly throws around in this book. He uses great analogies to drive the point home without boring you to death. He also makes it a point to use as many credible sources as possible, and mentions them almost as if to say, "Here, please check this out on your own time."

He breathes life into old scientists, researchers, and scholars. You almost feel like you know them. You feel bad for a lot of those who made great discoveries and never got anywhere in life or died in poverty.

I was surprised at how little we know. How little we've always known. Even after Bryson describes discovery after amazing discovery, he makes it a point to let you know just how much we don't know. It's both fascinating and disappointing.

I recommed this book for anyone who wanted a brief overview of our early beginnings, how we got to where we are, and a nice concise history of science as we know it today.

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Reading Progress

33.0% "So so good."
36.0% ""Using huge amounts of energy, [physicists] can whip particles into such a state of liveliness that a single electron can do forty-seven thousand laps around a four-mile tunnel in a second." MIND. BLOWN."
51.0% ""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"
68.0% "Just read a nice chapter on viruses and now I am completely fascinated but really really paranoid."
02/04 marked as: read
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