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I was first acquainted with Bill Bryson through his works on the English language and various travelogue types of books. In these books he proved to be an entertaining writer, witty and interesting, with just the right amount of I'm-not-taking-myself-too-seriously attitude to make for genuinely pleasurable reading. Other books of his, 'Notes from a Small Island' and 'The Mother Tongue', are ones I return to again and again. His latest book, one of the longer ones (I was surprised, as most Bryson books rarely exceed 300 pages, and this one weighs in well past 500), is one likely to join those ranks.
Of course, a history of everything, even a SHORT history of NEARLY everything, has got to be fairly long. Bryson begins, logically enough, at the beginning, or at least the beginning as best science can determine. Bryson weaves the story of science together with a gentle description of the science involved - he looks not only at the earliest constructs of the universe (such as the background radiation) but also at those who discover the constructs (such as Penzias and Wilson).
A great example of the way Bryson weaves the history of science into the description of science, in a sense showing the way the world changes as our perceptions of how it exists change, is his description of the formulation, rejection, and final acceptance of the Pangaea theory. He looks at figures such as Wegener (the German meteorologist - 'weatherman', as Bryson describes him) who pushed forward the theory in the face of daunting scientific rejection that the continents did indeed move, and that similarities in flora and fauna, as well as rock formations and other geological and geographical aspects, can be traced back to a unified continent. Bryson with gentle humour discusses the attitudes of scientists, as they shifted not quite as slowly as the continents, towards accepting this theory, making gentle jabs along the way (Einstein even wrote a foreword to a book that was rather scathing toward the idea of plate tectonics - brilliance is no guarantee against being absolutely wrong).
Bryson traces the development of the universe and the world from the earliest universe to the formation of the planet, to the growing diversity of life forms to development of human beings and human society. Inspired by Natural History (the short history refers more to natural history than anything else), this traces the path to us and possible futures. Bryson juxtaposes the creation of the Principia by Isaac Newton with the extinction of the dodo bird - stating that the word contained divinity and felony in the nature of humanity, the same species that can rise to the heights of understanding in the universe can also, for no apparent reason, cause the extinction of hapless and harmless fellow creatures on earth. Are humans, in Bryson's words, 'inherently bad news for other living things'? He recounts many of the truly staggering follies of species-hunting, particularly in the nineteenth century, calling upon people to take far more care of the planet with which we have been entrusted, either through design or fate.
Bryson's take on things is innovative and his narrative is interesting, but there is a point to it, just as there is with most of his writing. He writes not merely to entertain, or to inform, but to persuade. Bryson is intrigued by science, having a joy that comes across the page of someone who essentially did not know or understand a lot of the background of science and how it worked in the world until recently, and now wants to share that joy with everyone! He definitely has points to argue - for starters, the need for open-mindedness, even among (perhaps particularly among) those who are supposed to have the open and searching intellects, the scientists themselves. He also wishes others to know more about science, professionals and laypersons, and more about our own origins as a people, both in terms of where we've come from, and how we've come to know about it.
Unique among Bryson's writing in many ways, this is in some ways a travelogue through geology, paleontology, cosmology and evolution. A fun and fascinating read!
0Commentaire| 8 personnes ont trouvé cela utile. Ce commentaire vous a-t-il été utile ?OuiNonSignaler un abus
le 7 novembre 2004
Il a une façon de raconter - Bill Bryson, et de tout expliquer -qui est très attachante. Beaucoup des infos très interessants sur nos origins et ceux de notre univers, le tout expliqué avec une language de tous les jours pour tout le monde.
Seule petite critique à faire... la suite de chapitres n'est toujours pas logique... mais vu l'ampleur de recherche et des faits cités et explicité... ce n'est pas bien grave!
A lire pour tous des curieux de la terre... un livre qui nous reponds à beaucoup de nos questions fondamentales, mais en même temps qui nous pousse à poser encore d'avantage.
0Commentaire| 13 personnes ont trouvé cela utile. Ce commentaire vous a-t-il été utile ?OuiNonSignaler un abus
le 5 décembre 2007
Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" takes you on an interesting walk through the history of science, offering a good mixture of facts and entertainment. Of course, the entertaining melody of this anecdote-rich book occasionally comes at the cost of a certain superficiality, but this should not be held against the author.
What is quite disappointing, however, is that this "Short History" is endlessly anglo-centric. British, U.S. American or Australian scientists are depicted in detail with all their eccentric and usually positive attitudes, while non-anglosaxons are all too often troublemakers or simply ... absent! It is quite astonishing to read a history of science with big shots such as Galilei, Kepler, Kopernikus or Pasteur hardly or not at all being mentioned. Thus, Billy-boy, I give you five stars for chutzpah and only four for this book.
0Commentaire| 6 personnes ont trouvé cela utile. Ce commentaire vous a-t-il été utile ?OuiNonSignaler un abus
le 8 mars 2014
This is the worst kind of science writing imaginable. Most of it is not even wrong, just junk. If you scan the book, you will learn who slept around with whom (Marie Curie), who was a good high-school athlete (Hubble), who was really weird (Newton and a lot of others) and that Zürich is the capital of Switzerland. However, if you want to understand why Newton, Einstein, Darwin, Avery, Crick and so many others changed the way we understand the world, look elsewhere. You will enjoy the book if you like being talked down to by a scientific illiterate, if you enjoy trivia, if you think an electron is a musical instrument and if you are ready to believe, I quote, that the Michelson-Morley experiment was based on the fact that the earth spends six months moving away from the sun and six months moving back toward the sun. As I said, not even wrong...
11 commentaire| 3 personnes ont trouvé cela utile. Ce commentaire vous a-t-il été utile ?OuiNonSignaler un abus
le 15 novembre 2005
Bravo pour ce livre qui réussit à expliquer - avec un sens d'humour - et une curiosité manifeste , tout ce que nous avons appris a l'école et à la fac pour la chimie, la physique !
Tout est bien expliqué et accessible : Bill Bryson a réussi de faire vivre une matière poussièreuse, et les Faraday, Newton , Einstein sont expliqués non pas comme des curiosités historiques mais des hommes vivant dans leur époque.
Passionnant ! un cadeau idéal pour tout amoureux de la bonne lecture et veut raffraichir ses connaissances scientifiques.
Un excellent travail de vulgarisation !
0Commentaire| 7 personnes ont trouvé cela utile. Ce commentaire vous a-t-il été utile ?OuiNonSignaler un abus
le 28 avril 2016
A brillant book, full of interesting information while still being funny, witty and easy to read!
It won't cover EVERYTHING obviously and sometimes it will rant about some small details but Bill Bryson make sure to keep you hooked to the last bit of the book.

Would recommand it for any science enthousiasts or as kickstater to make you love science.
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le 27 mars 2011
Ce bouquin devrait être obligatoire dans les lycées et collèges et présent dans tous les foyers... Très sérieusement documenté et s'appuyant sur une bibliographie on ne peut plus rigoureuse, Bill Bryson développe ses talents de vulgarisateur hors pair et nous fait profiter de son humour dévastateur pour nous aider à remettre en cause nos propres à priori sur le monde qui nous entoure.
Plus q'une histoire des idées ayant abouti à notre perception la plus avancée du cosmos et de la naissance des formes de vie, il s'agit véritablement d'une introduction à une épistémologie réjouissante quant au futur développement du savoir humain. La lecture en "V.O." permet en prime de savourer pleinement la délectation de l'auteur (non scientifique) lors de sa découverte des idées et conflits ayant émaillée le surgissement des théories les plus contemporaines en matière de cosmologie, physique fondamentale, biologie, paléontologie, théories de l'évolution etc...
La traduction française (excellente) n'atteint que partiellement cette restitution.
0Commentaire| Une personne a trouvé cela utile. Ce commentaire vous a-t-il été utile ?OuiNonSignaler un abus
le 19 janvier 2016
Contenu intéressant et instructif le tout délivré avec humour.
Very interesting contents and full of fresh goog humour.
And then, the system says that I should set down in there two more words for my comments : I'm done.
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le 14 juillet 2015
Très bien documenté, anecdotes humoristiques à foison, une mine de renseignements inédits et surprenants. Le genre de livre qu'on prend plaisir à consulter, même au delà d'une première lecture. Donne envie de lire plus chez cet auteur hors normes. Truly enjoyable.
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le 2 octobre 2013
We all have gaps in our grasp of the history of the World, Science, Nature, the Universe and wotnot.
All the stuff you could never quite take in because you hadn't quite got the bit that went before is what Bill Bryson makes clear and undersatndable in this very ambitious book. It is completely fascinating and written in such a way that the reader can easily visualise the most complex scientific notions. "A short History of Nearly Everything" is certainly among the best non-fiction I've ever read. Excellent.
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