23 August 2008

'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson (2003)

A Short History of Nearly Everything

I picked up this book, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, at the Amsterdam airport for the long flight back to the U.S. It’s a good read, covering the stories of important scientific findings in physics, biology, chemistry, geology, paleontology and more, often digging into the stories of the scientists themselves. I’d recommend this book if you’d like to catch up on a wide range of sciences (and the last time you thought about science was in high school 20-30 or more years ago!).

My main conclusions:
1. Scientists can be a strange, obsessive bunch.
2. New ideas are frequently rejected initially, even those which seem to do a much better job of explaining the known facts better than existing ideas.
3. Scientists frequently express great certainty, which is frequently unwarranted.
4. There’s still a whole lot we don’t know!