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Cover image for A short history of nearly everything
Format:
Title:
A short history of nearly everything
Author:
ISBN:
9780375432002
Edition:
1st large print ed.
Publication Information:
New York : Random House Large Print, ©2003.
Physical Description:
x, 939 pages ; 25 cm
Contents:
pt. 1. Lost in the cosmos (How to build a universe -- Welcome to the solar system -- The Reverend Evans's universe) -- pt. 2. The size of the earth (The measure of things -- The stone-breakers -- Science red in tooth and claw -- Elemental matters) -- pt. 3. A new age dawns (Einstein's universe -- The mighty atom -- Getting the lead out -- Muster Mark's quarks -- The earth moves) -- pt. 4. Dangerous planet (Bang! -- The fire below -- Dangerous beauty) -- pt. 5. Life itself (Lonely planet -- Into the troposphere -- The bounding main -- The rise of life -- Small world -- Life goes on -- Good-bye to all that -- The richness of being -- Cells -- Darwin's singular notion -- The stuff of life) -- pt. 6. The road to us (Ice time -- The mysterious biped -- The restless ape -- Good-bye).
Summary:
One of the world's most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world₂s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.
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LP 500 Bryson 2003
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500 BRYSON
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500 BRYSON
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500 BRYSON
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Summary

Summary

One of the world's most beloved and bestselling writers takes his ultimate journey -- into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer. In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trail -- well, most of it. In In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world's most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining. From the Hardcover edition.


Author Notes

Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa on December 8, 1951. In 1973, he went backpacking in England, where he eventually decided to settle. He wrote for the English newspapers The Times and The Independent, as well as supplementing his income by writing travel articles.

He moved back to the United States in 1995. His first travel book, The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America, was published in 1989. His other books include I'm a Stranger Here Myself, In a Sunburned Country, Bill Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words, Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe, Made in America, The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson's African Diary, A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Walk About, and Seeing Further: The Story of Science, Discovery, the Genius of the Royal Society. A Walk in the Woods was adapted into a movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte.

Bryson's titles, The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, Notes from a Small Island and Neither Here Nor There made the New York Times bestseller list in 2016.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

As the title suggests, bestselling author Bryson (In a Sunburned Country) sets out to put his irrepressible stamp on all things under the sun. As he states at the outset, this is a book about life, the universe and everything, from the Big Bang to the ascendancy of Homo sapiens. "This is a book about how it happened," the author writes. "In particular how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since." What follows is a brick of a volume summarizing moments both great and curious in the history of science, covering already well-trod territory in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, paleontology, geology, chemistry, physics and so on. Bryson relies on some of the best material in the history of science to have come out in recent years. This is great for Bryson fans, who can encounter this material in its barest essence with the bonus of having it served up in Bryson's distinctive voice. But readers in the field will already have studied this information more in-depth in the originals and may find themselves questioning the point of a breakneck tour of the sciences that contributes nothing novel. Nevertheless, to read Bryson is to travel with a memoirist gifted with wry observation and keen insight that shed new light on things we mistake for commonplace. To accompany the author as he travels with the likes of Charles Darwin on the Beagle, Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton is a trip worth taking for most readers. First printing 110,000; 11-city author tour. (On sale May 6) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Kirkus Review

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science--e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?--and, when possible, provides answers. As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he's egged on even more so by the people who've figured out--or think they've figured out--such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material--time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction--and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, "The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose." Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough 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." Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

Confessing to an aversion to science dating to his 1950s school days, Bryson here writes for those of like mind, perhaps out of guilt about his lack of literacy on the subject. Bryson reports he has been doing penance by reading popular-science literature published in the past decade or two, and buttonholing a few science authors, such as Richard Fortey (Trilobite! Eyewitness to Evolution, 2000). The authors Bryson talks to are invariably enthusiasts who, despite their eminence, never look on his questions as silly but, rather, view them as welcome indicators of interest and curiosity. Making science less intimidating is Bryson's essential selling point as he explores an atom; a cell; light; the age and fate of the earth; the origin of human beings. Bryson's organization is historical and his prose heavy on humanizing anecdotes about the pioneers of physics, chemistry, geology, biology, evolution and paleontology, or cosmology. To those acquainted with the popular-science writing Bryson has digested, his repackaging is a trip down memory lane, but to his fellow science-phobes, Bryson' s tour has the same eye-opening quality to wonder and amazement as his wildly popular travelogues. --Gilbert Taylor


Choice Review

Bryson, a noted science writer, has prepared a history book for every reader. He weaves scientific discoveries and events into a story with this plot: how the world came to be. Names of comets, constants, laws, and theories become real human beings complete with quirky personalities. This is not a dry history of science but a tale of our universe, discovered through the eyes and experiments of those men and women who dared to search for answers. Although the intended audience might be anyone who avoided taking more science classes than necessary in high school, that does not mean that scientists in all areas will not delight in reading how interrelated the fields actually are. The book is arranged in parts, with chapters following a rough time line of discoveries in various fields. Each chapter includes a notes section, and the book includes an impressive bibliography along with a decent index. It is not a reference book, and to use it as such would be a crime. This wonderful book is highly recommended as an inspiration to budding scientists and those who spend moments wondering about the world around them. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All levels. L. A. Hall California State University--Sacramento


Library Journal Review

Bryson is one of the wittiest, most talented writers we have today. His travel books on England, the United States, and Australia are classics and will keep readers in stitches with his special talent-his gift!-for storytelling. But now he offers us this glimpse into scientific areas he admits he didn't understand as a student and tries to make palatable for his loyal listeners. Geology, astronomy, quantum mechanics, vulcanology, plate tectonics-if it weren't for Bryson's outstanding skills as a satirist and as a wry commentator on today's society, most listeners would have gone screaming into the night believing they were trapped in some hellish replay of college courses they flunked the first time around. Even though it's a pleasure to hear the author's comments on the petty rivalries of scientists and how many things were discovered almost by accident (this CD version is energized by an outstanding narration by Richard Matthews, who reads Bryson's words with wry British humor), we are still talking about subjects few people understand. Bryson's obvious success at self-education in the various scientific areas he discusses is to be applauded, but quantum mechanics is still quantum mechanics, no matter how many zingers he throws at squabbling scientists and long-held ridiculous theories. Recommended with the caveat that much of this book is a stretch to get through and only Bryson's wit takes us to the end, panting and gasping all the way.-Joseph L. Carlson, Allan Hancock Coll., Lompoc, CA(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introductionp. 1
Part I Lost in the Cosmosp. 7
1 How to Build a Universep. 9
2 Welcome to the Solar Systemp. 19
3 The Reverend Evans's Universep. 29
Part II The Size of the Earthp. 41
4 The Measure of Thingsp. 43
5 The Stone-Breakersp. 63
6 Science Red in Tooth and Clawp. 79
7 Elemental Mattersp. 97
Part III A New Age Dawnsp. 113
8 Einstein's Universep. 115
9 The Mighty Atomp. 133
10 Getting the Lead Outp. 149
11 Muster Mark's Quarksp. 161
12 The Earth Movesp. 173
Part IV Dangerous Planetp. 187
13 Bang!p. 189
14 The Fire Belowp. 207
15 Dangerous Beautyp. 224
Part V Life Itselfp. 237
16 Lonely Planetp. 239
17 Into the Tropospherep. 255
18 The Bounding Mainp. 270
19 The Rise of Lifep. 287
20 Small Worldp. 302
21 Life Goes Onp. 321
22 Good-bye to All Thatp. 335
23 The Richness of Beingp. 350
24 Cellsp. 371
25 Darwin's Singular Notionp. 381
26 The Stuff of Lifep. 397
Part VI The Road to usp. 417
27 Ice Timep. 419
28 The Mysterious Bipedp. 434
29 The Restless Apep. 453
30 Good-byep. 469
Notesp. 479
Bibliographyp. 517
Indexp. 529