Bill Bryson. Broadway Books, New York, 2003
IBSN 0-7679-0817-1 544 pp.
I know no better way to tell you about this delightful book than to simply let Brysons words speak for me (from the preface):
I didnt know what a proton was, or a protein, didnt know a quark from a quasar, didnt know how an atom was put together and couldnt imagine by what means anyone deduced such a thing. Suddenly I had a powerful, uncharacteristic urge to know something about thses matters and to understand how people figured them out. How does anybody know how much the earth weighs? How can they know when the universe started and what it was like when it did? How do they know how big it is now? … So I decided that I would devote a portion of my life — three years, as it turns out — to reading widely and devotedly and, as necessary, finding saintly, patient experts prepared to answer a lot of outstandingly dumn questions. The idea was to see if it isnt possible to understand and appreciate — matvel at, enjoy, even — the wonder and accomplishments of science at a level that isnt too technical or demanding, but uisnt exactly superficiasl either. That was my idea and hope, and that is what the book that follows is intended to be… As Bryson puts it, how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us.
Pretty wonderful stuff.