Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Short History of Nearly Everything: Book Review

Author: Bill Bryson

Length: 478 pages

What is It: A survey of science on earth including the cross-histories of the people who helped develop it.

What's Said: Starts from the universe at large, switches to the development and progression of the disciplines, drills down into an examination of the earth specifically and then discusses the advancement of life on the planet, culminating with the human race. Topics include - the solar system, paleontology, relativity, geology, chemistry, atoms, cells, quarks, the big bang, the troposphere, tectonics, oceans, bacteria, DNA, evolution.

What's True:  It is possible to be coherent on a wide range of scientific topics despite their individual depth and breadth. Scientific accuracy can be maintained without losing integrity. There is an incredible amount that we have discovered, but science is always building and changing. Obsession, madness, luck, and brilliance have shown us the way. Progress is championed by both specialists and laymen. Drama unfolds within science just as it does anywhere else people are involved.

So What: ASH's success is that it takes scientific history and facts and makes them accessible in an interesting and relevant way. It reminds the reader of what we often take for granted: the fickleness and complexity of life on earth, and how lucky we are to be alive and able to appreciate it. Bryson levels the scientific world to place where everyone can look at it with informed wonder.

Final Word: Must Read

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