Review: A Short History of Nearly Everything
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson: Doubleday (May 2003) Hardcover, Anchor (September 2004) Paperback 544 pages
While this book has been out for about two years now, I only recently got around to reading it. I found it to be an excellent survey on the current state of scientific knowledge, eminently readable, and quite often, very funny.
The book is written for the layman. The level is such that it can be comfortably understood by a reasonably intelligent high school student. However, it address issues in sufficient depth that on finishing it, I found I was able to reread Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time with greater understanding.
The origins of many of the sciences are covered in this book, including Physics, Geology, Paleontology, Cosmology, Biology and Chemistry, and how these sciences reveal the origins of the Universe, the Earth, life, and mankind. The pioneers in the various disciplines are discussed, revealing their quirks, their errors, and their genuine advances.
Not only do we find out what science knows now, we find out how we came to our present state of knowledge, and the gaps in our current knowledge are also identified.
This is not a book for those who want to believe that science has all the answers right now. It does not for as Bryson writes:
...we live in a universe whose age we can't quite compute, surrounded by stars whose distances we don't altogether know, filled with matter we can't identify, operating in conformance with physical laws whose properties we don't truly understand.
These first modern humans are surprisingly shadowy. We know less about ourselves, curiously enough, than about almost any other line of hominids.
Perhaps those looking for a place for God can take satisfaction from these gaps in our knowledge. But of course, to admit science does not yet have the answers to everything is not proof that the answer is in theology. Rather, it just shows that there are still countless opportunities for those interested in careers in scientific research.
This book is a worthwhile addition to anyone's library.
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