Monday, September 12, 2022

A short history of nearly everything - Bill Bryson

This is the kind of science book I would have liked to read when I was a high school student.
Bill Bryson, the famous travel writer, one day realized that he didn’t have an answer for even the most basic questions about why the world is the way it is and works the way it does. Therefore he embarked on a journey through articles, books and interviews that helped him shed some light on many of nature’s supposed mysteries.
The book covers topics such as astronomy, subatomic particles, plate tectonics, biology, ice ages, natural disasters and mass extinctions. The language and the style used make it accessible to the wider public. At the same time though it also tries to be as rigorous as possible. Bryson particularly enjoys focusing on the sequence of events, successes and failures that lead to the most important scientific breakthroughs, the idiosyncratic behavior of famous scientists and the relationships between them (I particularly liked the part on Newton, Halley and Hook).
Often funny, always engaging, it’s a great read for those who want to have an overview of the history of science, fill some knowledge gaps, refresh one’s memory or getting an update on some specific topic.
Finally, the most important lesson this book teaches us, in my opinion, is that life in the universe is extremely rare (for all we know it might exist only on our planet), and intelligent life is even rarer. As we are gifted with arguably the most advanced form of it, we should enjoy it at the fullest, without complaining about it or even try to erase it.

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