I am currently rereading (as well as occasionally listening via audiobook) to Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” primarily a science and history based book, this work is a phenomenal piece of literature, not only for its factual and interesting content, but for its ability to clearly convey and illustrate intimidating concepts (that would otherwise be lost on many readers) through modernized examples and comparisons. Although I have only listened to half of the book, I have already learned more in just over two hours than I have during the entire summer. Already the book has covered topics ranging from physics to quantum physics to astrophysics, biology and chemistry, geology and geography, entomology, cartography, archeology, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, radiology and palaeontology (just to name a few that readily come to memory). It is full of astounding facts and information about many interesting and incredible scientific fields, and deals with the discoveries, failures, legacies and conflicts of such famous figures as Pythagoras, Newton,read Cavendish, Marie Curie, Einstein, Bertrand Russel and Stephen Hawking.
Interesting fact derived from the text:
Were another planet capable of supporting sentient alien life, similar to our own existence, it would have to be based on a planet postulated to be at least 200 light years away. This means that, assuming this alien race were (right this minute) able to view our species upon this planet, they would actually be watching what we refer to as the 17th or 18th century, because of the spatial lag in light travel between locations. It would take centuries of viewing for them to reach what we would presume to call the ‘present.’
This phenomenon also means that in turn, were we to discover the same thing on a planet far, far away, that the effect would, of course, be the same for our viewing. This applies not only to planets, but to stars… which entails that any given star visible at night from anywhere on earth could, in fact, be long dead. The last rays of light emanating from its hypothetical death toward your eyes would still take an astounding journey through time and space to reach you, depending on its distance from your position. The North Star, for example, is about 680 light years away, according to Bryson’s research. Thus, if it were to burn out today, it’s death would go unnoticed until around the year 2700.
Interestingly enough, that also means that the North Star could have burned out sometime in the 14th century, and we just haven’t realized it yet.
Nuggets of grand information and knowledge such as this are contained within this piece of literature. It is a thinking book, and gets you wondering about tangents that lead you past imagination and wonder, and into the fantastically endless and insane realm of science.
Obviously, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys both the scientific mystery and the tragedy of history… as well as an inspiring read.