A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition

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Crown/Archetype, Nov 30, 2010 - History - 624 pages
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One of the world’s most beloved writers and bestselling author of One Summer takes his ultimate journey—into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer.

In A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson trekked the Appalachian Trailwell, most of it. In A Sunburned Country, he confronted some of the most lethal wildlife Australia has to offer. Now, in his biggest book, he confronts his greatest challenge: to understandand, if possible, answerthe oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves. Taking as territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization, Bryson seeks to understand how we got from there being nothing at all to there being us. To that end, he has attached himself to a host of the world’s most advanced (and often obsessed) archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians, travelling to their offices, laboratories, and field camps. He has read (or tried to read) their books, pestered them with questions, apprenticed himself to their powerful minds. A Short History of Nearly Everything is the record of this quest, and it is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Science has never been more involving or entertaining.

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I am not a big reader but this is one of my favorite books.

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I absolutely loved this book because it consolidated a lot of information that I had already known but updated it and in some odd cases was dated. The article published just recently "Non-Africans Are Part Neanderthal, Genetic Research" published July 18, 2011 which can be read at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110718085329.htm demonstrates how quickly the scientific community is moving these day.
Dr. Labuda and his team almost a decade ago had identified a piece of DNA (called a haplotype) in the human X chromosome that seemed different and whose origins they questioned. When the Neanderthal genome was sequenced in 2010, they quickly compared 6000 chromosomes from all parts of the world to the Neanderthal haplotype. The Neanderthal sequence was present in peoples across all continents, except for sub-Saharan Africa, and including Australia.
"There is little doubt that this haplotype is present because of mating with our ancestors and Neanderthals. This is a very nice result, and further analysis may help determine more details," says Dr. Nick Patterson, of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard University, a major researcher in human ancestry who was not involved in this study.
The only angst I experienced reading this book came in the last two pages where Bill Bryson was willing to cede to humanity the job of stewarding the earth. The rest of the book happily presented the earth and it's inhabitants as a cosmic role of the dice where time and probabilities with a lot of luck created everything. I the very end of the book he wanted to hang onto what we have believing that we, humans, are an exogenous species effecting the world around us in a completely unique way.
I for one believe that we are a part of the environment and that what will come through our ability to steward or inability to steward is part of the natural selection process.

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About the author (2010)

BILL BRYSON'S Bestselling books include A Walk in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Here Myself, In A Sunburned Country, Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, Bill Bryson's African Diary, and A Short History of Nearly Everything. He lives in Norfolk, England, with his wife and children.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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