A Short History Of Nearly Everything (Bryson) (英語) ペーパーバック – 2004/6/1
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Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller: but even when he stays safely in his own study at home, he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to find out everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us.
Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. It's not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the Earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?
On his travels through time and space, he encounters a splendid collection of astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists, like the painfully shy Henry Cavendish who worked out many conundrums like how much the Earth weighed, but never bothered to tell anybody about many of his findings. In the company of such extraordinary people, Bill Bryson takes us with him on the ultimate eye-opening journey, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.
"Mr Bryson has a natural gift for clear and vivid expression. I doubt that a better book for the layman about the findings of modern science has been written" (Sunday Telegraph)
"A fascinating idea, and I can't think of many writers, other than Bryson, who would do it this well. It's the sort of book I would have devoured as a teenager. It might well turn unsuspecting young readers into scientists. And the famous, slightly cynical humour is always there" (Evening Standard)
"A genuinely useful and readable book. There is a phenomenal amount of fascinating information packed between its covers ... A thoroughly enjoyable, as well as educational, experience. Nobody who reads it will ever look at the world around them in the same way again" (Daily Express)
"Of course, there are people much better qualified than Bill Bryson to attempt a project of this magnitude. None of them, however, can write fluent Brysonese, which, as pretty much the entire Western reading public now knows, is an appealing mixture of self-deprecation, wryness and punnery" (Spectator)
"The very book I have been looking for most of my life... Bryson wears his knowledge with aplomb and a lot of very good jokes" (Daily Mail)
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Be prepared though to being overwhelmed because there is a lot of information in this book, with references to other works. This book is best read in sections allowing yourself some time to think about what you have learned; and I'm sure you are going to learn at least a few things.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand what an amazing place our planet is and life that exists on it.
The book is organized into 6 parts: Lost in the Cosmos; the Size of the Earth; A New Age Dawns; Dangerous Planet; Life Itself; and The Road to Us.
The first part: Lost in the Cosmos is about the big bang and the elemental beginnings of the Universe. Part 2 The size of the Earth discusses the early attempts to determine the size of the Earth in the 17th century. Part 3 A New Age Dawns is about is about Einstein’s universe and the atom and plate tectonics. Part 4 Dangerous Planet is about the interior of the planet and what lies below the surface. Chapter 5 Life Itself is the largest section comprising 161 pages. It covers the rise of life beginning after the formation of the Earth up through the Cambrian explosion. The chapter also discusses Darwin’s work on Evolution. The final chapter The Road to Us is about the rise of humans.
My only issue with the book is that is a bit dated. The history sections are great, but the discussion on current events and science are out of date. This book needs an update.
Bryson moves seamlessly from one sweeping topic to the next with great ease. Whether he is expounding upon thermodynamics, paleontology or cosmology, he helps us to grasp, to the extent that seems possible, the interrelatedness of all physical phenomona. He is particularly skillful at putting into perspective concepts of size and dimension within the universe, whether mind-bogglingly vast expanses or minuscule marvels of life’s building blocks. He not only teaches us what is known, but humbles us by emphasizing how much we do not know.
Bryson also brings us biographical sketches of the greatest names in science as only an enormously talented humorist could do. Intellectual giants like Newton, Einstein, and many others, are brought to us with all their eccentricities. So many brilliant individuals were quite odd, which makes them much more human and accessible to the Bryson’s reader.
There is also a moral underpinning to Bryson’s book which becomes most evident in the final chapter. Our species has, in essence, become the extinction event for so many others with which we have shared the planet. Beginning with the unsuspecting and gentle dodo bird, Bryson outlines how we have systematically brought about the termination of thousands of creatures, intentionally or through ignorance. This sobering reality makes one a bit more respectful of current efforts to save endangered species.
No species, and indeed no human being, is anything other than a miracle of chance, a reality in which Bryson rejoices from his opening chapter. He congratulates each of us for surviving the cut and coming into existence against all odds. His book is humbling and thought-provoking, leaving one with a sense of awe at the grandeur of, well, nearly everything.