To that end, Bill Bryson apprenticed himself to a host of the world's most profound scientific minds, living and dead. His challenge is to take subjects like geology, chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people, like himself, made bored (or scared) stiff of science by school.
On his travels through space and time, Bill Bryson encounters a splendid gallery of the most fascinating personalities ever to ask a hard question. In their company, he undertakes a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge. Science has never been more involving, and the world we inhabit has never been more full of wonder and delight.
©2003 Bill Bryson; (P)2003 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House Inc.
"Destined to become a modern classic of science writing." (The New York Times Book Review)
When I picked up this book, I thought the "everything" in "nearly everything" was everything. In the introduction, the author makes it seem that way too. He fails to mention (anywhere in the book) that his perception of "everything" is just the natural sciences. It is a fun, engaging, acceptably thorough survey of the way mankind first discovered and now views the natural sciences, and for that, it is worth notice. But to say that it is a take on everything is not only wrong, but arrogant and blind.
The biggest part of "everything" is man's culture and it is not even regarded except in the findings of science. And even then, it is severely deficient. When it looks at Relativity or Evolution, for example, it passes up the opportunity for really exploring the theories so that the author can spend more time on the scientist's lives and events surrounding the actual science. I guess that's why it's a history, but getting just a taste is painful for those seeking more than just cocktail party anecdotes. The book doesn't even touch on all the sciences--most notably lacking a survey of psychology. Neuroscience is perhaps at the forefront of "everything" and it isn't even hinted at here.
Instead, Bryson broadcasts, in the officious, repetitive and sarcastic way so many outside of science do, that man and his culture are insignificant, lucky and dangerous. Amnesia strikes the author several times as he asserts how innovative and creative we have been by examining a few of the great natural philosophers and then abruptly claims how harmful and puny we are. He will claim how vast the earth is and how easily it (or an asteroid) could destroy the insignificant mankind and then notes how we are destroying the earth and are a likely candidate for the most destructive thing in the universe.
Bryson sees man's product as shameful and the rest of the universe as brilliant and awesome. The truth of the latter should not necessitate the former.
Lots of anecdotes and facts, facts, facts, but after listening this one, how much do I remember? Not a lot, actually. Or do I now really understand the theory of relativity? Perhaps a bit better than before...really! This is not a novel. This is facts, lots of details that I want to remember. Not a colorful story where it is OK to miss a few details and still get the story right. To digest this much information, I have to turn back a page or two quite often. That's OK on paper, but annoying on the iPod. I feel that quite a lot of information have bounced off my brain here... And that irritates me a bit. Maybe it's my fault, perhaps I'm a visual guy. Nevertheless it bugs me.
This is in no way a bad book, it is quite impressive and interesting in many ways. Well narrated, too. If popular science is of interest to you, you'll enjoy it. But I can't help thinking that I should have bought the paperback...
I was very excited to start listening to this audio book... in the mornings when I do cardio, when I'm walking around my neighborhood running errands, at the tanning salon, but it fell short of my expectations. Now don't think that from the aforementioned activities that I'm some sort of illiterate airhead -- I'm not, but at the same time, I haven't read and studied about all the different scientists and inventors of all time, which I think is unfortunately a sort of prerequisite for one to really enjoy this book. Full of names that I've never heard of, going back and forth through time, with pretentious sounding latin pronunciations like "Homo neandratalus," I found it difficult to finish the book. It seemed to get more and more boring as it went along. To the author's credit, he did a good job of researching and getting the facts right about our history (or at least I think he did), and the first hour or so about the origin of the universe was actually quite interesting. But as the book progressed to archeology and "java man" type info, I found myself struggling to pay attention.
In summary, I think a select group of people -- say 30-60 year old socialites who have lots of money and plenty of time to read about interesting (but relatively useless) information might like this book. But for the average joe like me it's a snoozer.
I am appalled by the lack of crtical thought exhibited by other reviewers. Sure, this is a smooth amble through a vast territory of science but the author presents far too many theories as fact and fails to mention competing lines of thought. His soliloquy of the demise of the Dodo bird would be great if it were satire - but he's serious! Please do more reading before accepting his PC point of view.
I was really looking forward to listening to this book, but my interest faded very quickly. Most topics were just plain boring and other subjects led you to believe what the autor was proposing was fact instead of theory. I don't mind hearing about theories; however; the autor should be clear about the topic being a throry vrs. fact. I always listen to the stories all the way through, but this was entirely to tedious to hold my attention.
This book is very focused on the evolutionary/big bang view of the origins of the solar system, the earth, humans, animals, the fossil record etc. so it is very 'earth science' focussed. It is long and, I thought, boring. The author spends alot of time (and detail) providing a litany of names and locations of the scientists -- this would be OK on the major scientists but he does this on many many individuals with smaller discoveries. He goes on and on from one scientist to the next and pretty soon I was asleep.
There is also no table of contents so you can't decide that you want to listen to a certain part, e.g. the fossil record information, because you won't know where it is! I picked up a few interesting facts but not worth the 15 hours of listening.
Don't daydream during this book or you will be lost. Maybe after a second or third or fourth listen I will get more of this book but for now I cannot give it high marks.
The book is a good read, but it should be honest and be called "A Short History Of Evolution" - and why I think its true.
Even though I am a devout Christian, and don't agree with alot of scientific theory, I still really enjoyed listening to the theories and history of science. This is a great book if you don't know a whole lot about all the different types of sciences and wish to learn more about the universe and world.
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