A Short History of Nearly Everything

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A Short History of Nearly Everything  
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
Author Bill Bryson
Language English
Genre(s) Non-fiction
Publisher Black Swan (UK);Broadway Books (US)
Publication date 2003
Media type print (hardcover, paperback)
ISBN 0-7679-0817-1

A Short History of Nearly Everything (ISBN 0-7679-0817-1) is a general science book by Bill Bryson, which explains some areas of science in ordinary language. It was the bestselling popular science book of 2005 in the UK, selling over 300,000 copies.[1]

A Short History deviates from Bryson's popular travel book genre, instead describing general sciences such as chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics. In it, he explores time from the Big Bang to the discovery of quantum mechanics, via evolution and geology.

Bryson tells the story of science through the stories of the people who made the discoveries, such as Edwin Hubble, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein.


[edit] Background

Bill Bryson wrote this book because he was dissatisfied with his scientific knowledge — that was, not much at all. He writes that science was a distant, unexplained subject at school. Textbooks and teachers alike did not ignite the passion for knowledge in him, mainly because they never delved in the whys, hows, and whens.

It was as if [the textbook writer] wanted to keep the good stuff secret by making all of it soberly unfathomable.

Bryson, on the state of science books used within his school[2]

It was in his later years that he realized with stunning shame that he was ignorant about many things that he wanted to understand. Thus from his own life experience, Bryson discusses topics from an angle involving simple explanations, funny dialogue, interesting facts, and much more.

[edit] Contents

Bryson describes graphically and in layman's terms the size of the universe, and that of atoms and subatomic particles. He then explores the history of geology and biology, and traces life from its first appearance to today's modern humans, placing emphasis on the development of the modern Homo sapiens. Furthermore, he discusses the possibility of the Earth being struck by a meteor, and reflects on human capabilities of spotting a meteor before it impacts the Earth, and the extensive damage that such an event would cause. He also focuses on some of the most recent destructive disasters of volcanic origin in the history of our planet, including Krakatoa and Yellowstone National Park. A large part of the book is devoted to relating humorous stories about the scientists behind the research and discoveries and their sometimes eccentric behaviours. Bryson also speaks about modern scientific views on human effects on the Earth's climate and livelihood of other species, and the magnitude of natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and the mass extinctions caused by some of these events.

An illustrated edition of the book was released in November 2005.[3]

[edit] Awards and reviews

The book received many favourable reviews on its release, although some reviewers have suggested the book contains more than a few errors, such as where Bryson discusses the number of cells in the human body.[1]

In 2004, this book won Bryson the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book.[4] Bryson later donated the GBP£10,000 prize to the Great Ormond Street Hospital children's charity.[5]

In 2004, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.[6]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Staff of BBC Focus (July 2006). How to... Make a Mint From Science. BBC Focus. pp. 54. 
  2. ^ Bryson, Bill (2003). A Short History of Nearly Everything. USA: Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-0817-1. 
  3. ^ Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition. Broadway Books. ISBN 0-7679-2322-7. 
  4. ^ Amos, Jonathan (June 14, 2004). "Bryson wins £10,000 science prize". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3806375.stm. Retrieved on 2006-03-15. 
  5. ^ Crown, Sarah (June 22, 2004). "Bryson gives away Aventis winnings". The Guardian. http://books.guardian.co.uk/aventisprize2004/story/0,,1286633,00.html. 
  6. ^ Pauli, Michelle (December 7, 2005). "Bryson wins Descartes prize for his guide to science". The Guardian. http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,1661219,00.html. 

[edit] External links

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