Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Report

It is always good to be humbled. I've been listening to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, and it is such a good book that I am thinking of getting my own copy, so I can read it again and take notes. I may even give it out for Christmas presents this year.

There isn't (so far) much in this book that is new to me, but what makes it so great is that it is written for the layperson. So far, I have listened to the history of the universe and our planet (including dinosaurs), a good bit of physics (quantum physics, the Big Bang, and all that), and am currently in the throes of learning about the Caldera that is Yellowstone National Park (the stuff of nightmares).

I truly believe that if more people read more books like this, there'd be a lot less strife in the world. We'd all know just how special we (all life on Earth) are. The circumstances that brought around life on this hunk of rock turning in space are mind-blowing. And then to consider just how varied that life is...millions and millions of species over millions and millions of years. And for all we know, we are the only place, ever, anywhere, where life exists. How precious that makes this planet.

The variety of circumstances that had to come together to make it possible for life to occur here are staggering. Just the right balance of gravity, atmosphere, water, geothermal activity, rotational spin, ocean salinity...the components are numerous and still so little understood.

We may laugh at the example from chaos theory where a butterfly flapping its wings affects the weather on the other side of the planet, but its these little things that we take for granted that, if knocked out of balance, can result in catastrophic changes (like decreasing the salinity of the oceans, which affects the thermal movement of the ocean waters, which affects not only the life living in those waters, but also our global climate patterns).

If more people knew all this, then they might spend a little more time taking care of Earth. To threaten to blow up the world over something as small and petty as religious or political differences is the ultimate selfish behavior.

If you haven't read (or listened to) this book yet, put it on your to-do list. You won't be sorry.


  1. Louise runs off to put this book on her Kindle wish list.

  2. Totally agree Ellen ........ and you couldn't wish to meet a more delightful, self-effacing bloke..... met him a couple of times.... he's chancellor of our university.

  3. I've read it and I'll add my endorsement to yours!

  4. Looks like a book I would love too, thanks.

  5. Very thoughtful post. Topics like this help us focus on what's real and lasting.

  6. Thanks for the review, Ellen. Sounds interesting. A dose of real science would be a good thing for many people, though personally, I think the answer to unrest is widespread access to video games! They seem to keep lots of young men preoccupied. ; )