A Short History of Nearly Everything
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.