Book Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson, book, review, science, a short history of nearly everything, popular science, how the world works

It’s the end of January and the end of my first 2016 science read!

As I mentioned before, I planned on reading a science book a month for the year of 2016. My January pick was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and this is my review of the book!

First up, I just wanted to put out there just how much pleasure reading this book gave me. I rarely read non-fiction books but I enjoyed this book the way I would my usual fiction books.

If you are like me (and Bryson, for that matter!) and never did well in science at school but has since longed to learn more about science, A Short History of Nearly Everything is the book for you. Here, Bryson manages to do what thousands of dry, dull science textbooks never could – make science interesting, entertaining and accessible to the ordinary layman. In fact, I wished this book had been my school science textbook.

In A Short History, Bryson manages to squeeze in a lot of facts about science (everything, in fact, from the Big Bang to string theory – pretty much, as the title says, a history of science itself) in one book and he does it in such entertaining fashion that you hardly notice that you’re actually learning stuff that you struggled to even comprehend back in the classroom. And along the way, he includes a whole heap of other fun facts such as:

  • About 1% of that pesky white noise screen on your TV is accounted for by the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang, which means when you’re looking at the static, you’re seeing the remnants of the birth of the universe.
  • Edwin Hubble (he of whom the Hubble telescope is named for) was a very intelligent, athletic, charming hunk of an Adonis but also one hell of a liar and a massive ego. We also, to this day, do not know what has happened to his body because his wife never had a funeral for him and never told anyone what she did with the corpse.
  • The only stuffed specimen of the extinct dodo was tossed onto a bonfire by a museum director because he deemed it ‘unpleasantly musty.’
  • Darwin never left England after his infamous trip on the HMS Beagle.
  • Richard Owen, the man behind London’s Natural History Museum and who was the first person to make museums accessible to the general public had major beef going on with Charles Darwin and, well, it must seem, almost everybody else. Put it this way: he wasn’t the nicest personality around town.
  • We contain so much potential energy within us that an average-sized adult contains enough potential energy to “explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

I highly recommend A Short History of Nearly Everything to everyone who always wants to gain a better understanding of science – things like what quasars are, what string theory actually is about, Einstein’s theory of relativity, how scientists set about measuring the age of our planet, and other mysteries of the universe.

Well, that’s January for us! Now armed with my basic knowledge of all things science-y, I feel prepared to tackle my next book, a slim and rather innocuous looking volume written by none other than the master of the universe himself.

That’s right – it’s A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking!

Stephen Hawking, a brief history of time, physics, universe, science, popular science, how the world works, time, book, review

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