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May 9, 2011 | by  | in Books |
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Sciencey Awesomeness

Some of you out there may be wondering (and why wouldn’t you) what the most influential science book has been over the last few years.

So, “what is the most influential book of sciencey awesomeness to come out of late?” I hear you ask… Well, there are actually two: A Short History of Nearly Everything (2005) by Bill Bryson and Grand Design (2010) by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. Since it is the newer of the two, I’ll start with Grand Design.

This book, to put it bluntly, should be boring—it’s about physics, and although physics is generally interesting, books about it generally aren’t. Luckily, Hawking and Mlodinow have had practice with this and has written a book containing no equations at all (huzzah!). Grand Design examines the history of scientific knowledge regarding the universe from the Ionian Greeks to Copernicus, all the way up to relativity and quantum mechanics. It also explains M-theory, which is an extension to string theory and is quite complicated. All in all, it’s pretty good—a little condescending, but as the people writing it are so much smarter than I am, it felt justified.

So now to Bill Bryson’s book. Although scientifically less intense, it is much broader: rather than just discussing physics (which it does quite well), it also covers geology, biology, palaeontology and chemistry. Bryson gives a fresh perspective of someone who was—up until the writing of the book—quite ignorant of all these things. It is also pleasantly amusing and contains a lot of small, fun-sized facts about the people who made the science we know today, like Newton and Rutherford. Some of these facts are very strange and just a little bit amazing—such as Newton shoving needles in his eyes and the palaeontologist who refused to wear clothes.

Critically both books were very well received, with Bryson winning Aventis, Descartes, and Samuel Johnson prizes despite his occasional mistakes in the biology portion of the book. Grand Design received generally positive feedback overall, but I recommend Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. It really is just more fun to read. *

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  1. Bucky says:

    Not bad at all flleas and gallas. Thanks.

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