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A Review of a Short History of nearly everything by Bill Bryson

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The book is written by a professional writer, not by a scientist. Since the author knows how to explain things plainly and in a detailed way, it makes this book much more fun than other science books. There are lot of jokes and funny examples in the book and that helps the reader keep being interested in the book. There is so much information in the book. The book was chosen as #1 best seller by New York Times when it was first published. Also, In 2004, the book won the EU Prize for science communication Bill Bryson admits that he always wanted to learn about the birth of the Earth and how it developed by now because he knew nothing about it when he was in school and he always wanted to learn. From 2000 to 2003, he spent three years journals, articles, talking to the scientists to learn and wrote this excellent book.


          As its name says, the book is trying to cover everything starting from the Big Bang to the day. The first chapter is about the Big Bang Theory, that chapter taught me a lot about the theory and one of the most important things I learned from it is that the Big Bang is totally about right after the explosion, not about the bang itself. (specifically scientists managed to explain things starting from 10 over -22 seconds after the explosion), so the theory is not against the religious views at all, because the explosion might have caused by a God and that would not contradict with neither the theory or the religious views.

          I was going to summarize all of the chapters but it looks like my column (J) is not going to be enough for that. Shortly, in the second chapter, the author explains how small our planet is in the universe and how it is impossible to travel to other planets which have living organisms like ours. The third chapter is about the discoveries in the 18th and 19th century, it is about Einstein, Feynman, Planck and bunch of others. And in the fourth chapter, the book is about the physicists and their discoveries in the 20th century and with that chapter the author kind of brings an end to the discoveries in Physics and in the fifth and sixth chapters he talks about the structure of the Earth and human-beings in the view of Biology.

Format and Language

          Since the book is written by a professional writer instead of a scientist, it explains the million dollar questions very simply and understandably. Also, it does not just tell us what happened and how happened, it gives visual and real examples to explain things. For example, “Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on this “i” can hold something in the region of 500.000.000.000 of them”, or another one while explaining why Pluto is not a planet any more; “If you set Pluto down on the top of the Uni ted States, it would cover not quite half of the lower forty eight states.” That helps the readers to visualize the information, therefore get it better. Besides, there are lots of funny comments made by the author and that is differentiating the book from the boring textbooks or other science books.

Even though Bill Bryson is not a scientist, there are only a few errors in A Short History of Nearly Everything. So far, only nine to ten errors were found in the book by the scientists and that is nothing considering the book is full of information in six hundred pages.


          Anyone who has those questions (such as "How does anybody know how much the Earth weighs? or how old are its rocks? or what really is way down there in the center? How can they [scientists] know how and when the Universe started and what it was like when it did? How do they know what goes on inside an atom?") about the Earth like the author should read this book and I believe anyone will find at least a certain part of the book is interesting since that part is trying to answer his questions, for example the Big Bang part of it was way more interesting than the others parts for me, because I was more into that, but another reader may be more into the developments in the 18th century.

The book is so well written that Jupiter Scientific says “It is superbly written. Popular science writers should study this book.” (2004) Most science books are hard to understand, especially for a person whose native language is not English, but while reading this book, I had no problems at all, only a few scientific terms I needed to look at in a dictionary, that was all. Tim Flannery from The Times says “It represents a wonderful education, and all schools would be better places if it were the core science reader on the curriculum.”(2004)


Bryson B. A short History of Nearly Everything. Black Swan books, 2003. (2004), staff of Jupiter Scientific,,

 Flannery T. The Times, 2004. 687pp.

More about this author: Sinan Kahya

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