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A Short History of Nearly Everything

The science we study in schools can be compared to the tasteless sugary ice cream shoved carelessly in a wet conical-biscuit by the village ice-cream vendor who comes every Tuesday on his bicycle. No wonder, the study becomes repetitive and fails to ignite the passion in us to go further in time. Few of us dare to pursue the study of science. And those who take it, they do not because it interests them, but it promises to give a good job. Very few of us really study science because it amuses us.

Bill Bryson blames this lack of interest in science to our school days, “It was as if [the textbook writer] wanted to keep the good stuff secret by making all of it soberly unfathomable.”

Probably that was the reason why he came with such a wonderful rough guide to science ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’. As if a chef decorating your plate with the sweetest creams carefully chosen from all parts of the world leaving you to wonder what to order more.

The book takes you from the gargantuan stars to subatomic particles in a matter of few pages. The journey form 10 raised to the power of 100 to 10 degraded to the power of -100 takes less than a minute. Traversing haphazardly from Cosmos to Bacteria, from Big Bang to Genetics,the book leaves the reader open mouthed. The book covers almost all branches of science, Space, Earth, Environmental, Life, Chemistry and Physics introducing us to the pioneers of each field.

One moment you will be lost in the cosmos. Next moment you will find yourself measuring the size of earth. You will burn in the fire below the earth’s surface before traveling backwards to the ice age. The book doesn’t claim to explain all. Neither it promises to elucidate the solved/unsolved mysteries. It just takes us in a time machine through all corners of world showing who is getting awestruck at that time by a sudden discovery of something unimaginable. Einstein, Newton, Hubble, Bohr, Avogadro, Planck, Maxwell, Darwin, Feynman. Along with their idiosyncrasies, it describes briefly the lives and wonders of the greatest personalities in the history of science in such fervour that you would gasp for more.

Being a gifted travelogue writer, Bill Bryson describes each occurring in such adroitness that not a single chapter will bore you. For example – instead of the text-bookish – ‘a million years ago in the world came the first human being,’ he writes, ‘if you fly backwards traveling one year per second it takes you half an hour to reach Christ’s birth and three weeks to reach the start of human race.’

Those who are in that mode of academics where they have to decide what to take up for their higher studies, should read this one and the path will be clear.

Bill Bryson shares his delight with such passion that I am sure it will rejuvenate your interest in science. Surely it did for me.

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