November 7, 2004

A Short History of Nearly Everything

I just finished reading the new Bill Bryson book A Short History of Nearly Everything. I’ve read a number of Bryson’s books and they are all without exception great. I would recommend Bryson’s books to essentially anyone I know. I eagerly got this new book a while back. First, Bryson’s books are typically very funny. I didn’t find this one nearly as funny, but it wasn’t because he failed, I just don’t think he tried to make this as funny. However, it was very interesting nonetheless.

This is a good book for people who, like myself, find science really interesting but not so interesting that you want to read text books. Bryson does just as the title suggests and covers everything from the magma cooling and the formation of Earth all the way to leaded gasoline, cellular biology and the history of mankind! It’s a great book to fill a Cliff Claven like reportoire of interesting facts. Bryson correctly focuses on the things that the average person would find interesting and doesn’t delve into deep science. He highlights the politics of science and those rare individuals that spend their entire life focusing on a single species of moss.

Amongst the things that you can impress friends with:

  • Did you know that Yellowstone Park is on top of a huge volcano that is likely to blow in the next few thousand years and take out a lot of the United States?

  • Did you know that sometimes planes drop a 1,000 feet out of the blue? It’s rare, but it’s happened.

  • Did you know that the same person that introduced CFCs also introduced leaded gas? He did more damage to the environment than perhaps any other single person.


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Ira Glass at the Pabst Theater On Saturday we found ourselves doing something that we both recalled we hadn’t done probably in a decade. We were hopping into the car to drive