Monday, 24 September 2012

Book #79 A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

A Short History Of Nearly Everything

Firstly, what irritated me about this book was the title. It isn't a history of nearly everything, it's exclusively a history on Science. Neither, though it attempts to sum up the history of Science and therefore has abridged it would I consider it, at 579 ish pages to be especially short. So the whole title is a misnomer and annoyed me, though I'm probably just being a silly pedant about a fun title.

Bill Bryson's motive for the book was one of those old Science books that shows the inside of the Earth, he felt he never got the education he needed to appreciate the ideas behind the page. The book covers many things from cells to astronomy to atoms, to evolution and all the ideas as they developed therein.

Slightly frustratingly I have since read online that a lot of the information Bryson imparts is actually inaccurate, sometimes a little, sometimes entirely. The book is information dense, and I realised as I went along that though I understood it as I read, I wasn't actually retaining much.

Part of that is because the majority of the book didn't "blow my mind" though it's a history of Science, Bryson himself seems to have got side-tracked and made it a series of potted biographies about the scientists themselves, the tragic life of Max Planck, the rise of Einstein. He seems fascinated by the far most fascinating aspect of the book the unexpected cut throat rivalries between scientists and how many were done out of the credit they deserved. Though this is really interesting, it's not the history of the ideas but of the men.

The two things which really did stick in my mind during this book were his writings on asteroids and the consequences of impact and the possibility of an eruption from the Supervolcano under Yellowstone Park, the massive consequences of either event are both poo your pants scary, and a reminder of how fragile life on earth really is.

Towards the end of this book I got a bit fed up and was really looking forward to moving on to other things, so it was nowhere near as enthralling as other Science books I've read. Meh. 6/10     

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