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A Short History of Nearly Everything

Friday, February 10th, 2006 Leave a comment Go to comments

I was introduced to Science Fiction by a friend when I was 12, and gobbled it up as best I could considering that there were no SciFi sections in the bookstores at that time. Mail-order was our only source. And in one order I snuck in a little “science fact,” a book by George Gamow (who was also the author of one of my University physics books in later years) called “1,2,3 … Infinity”. The descriptions of relativity and assorted physics, explained for the layman, blew me away, and 40 years later I still remember my astonishment and delight as I inhaled its magic.

For Christmas my wife gave me a similar book, but written in 2003, so somewhat more current, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. Since my university science training was complete in the 70s a lot has been learned about physics, astronomy and geology, so I’m getting a bit of an update. Written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, the scientifc updates are interwoven with fascinating historical snippets about the men and women who discovered, researched and theorized.

It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in science, and shows too that politicians are not alone in their egocentric silly sniping. It’s amazing the lengths that so-called “scientists” will go to to refute theories contrary to their own. Sure, their research funding may be at risk, but it’s hardly scientific to ridicule, shame, sabotage and undermine colleagues with differing opinions. On the other hand, such silly, immature behaviour may goad researchers to dig deeper and seek further.

As an example, at the same time in 1963 that plate tectonics theory was first being proposed by researcher Drummond Matthews and his student Fred Vine, Canadian Lawrence Morely apparently submitted a paper proposing the same theory to the Journal of Geophysical Research. The editor is quoted as replying, “Such speculations make interesting talk at cocktail parties, but it is not the sort of thing that ought to be published under serious scientific aegis.” Apparently by 1980 one in eight geologists still did not believe in the theory.

The book abounds with such anecdotes and stats, and I’m not looking forward to finishing it … it’s much too fun.

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Categories: Books, Learning
  1. pilotgothic1
    Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 5:03 am | #1

    Interesting! Do you think this book is available outside of Canada also?

    Franz

  2. Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 8:19 am | #2

    It’s available in book and CD form at amazon.de. Are you in Germany?

  3. pilotgothic1
    Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 8:20 am | #3

    Austria

  4. Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 8:50 am | #4

    Gotcha, Franz. Amazon.at has it.

  5. pilotgothic1
    Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 9:13 am | #5

    Thank’s Jon

    got to get it

  6. pilotgothic1
    Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 11:42 am | #6

    Have it!!

  7. Saturday, February 11th, 2006 at 7:38 pm | #7

    Great, Franz. I look forward to hearing about how you like it . . .

  8. pilotgothic1
    Saturday, February 18th, 2006 at 1:28 pm | #8

    Hi Jon,

    I have only read the first couple of pages but I’m amazed from the beginning. I like the humorous style that Bill uses to describe very complex things but still he manage it that one can understand these difficult connections very easy. Many thank’s for this heads up! It would be a shame if I had missed this one!

  9. Sunday, February 19th, 2006 at 10:07 pm | #9

    You are welcome, Franz! Glad you’re enjoying it.

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