A Short Story of Nearly Everything Summary


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A Short Story of Nearly Everything Summary

A Short Story of Nearly Everything: Introduction

A Short History of Nearly Everything (2004) by Bill Bryson literally covers its title in terms of diversity of the topics. It is an enlightening summary of essential topics such as the Big Bang theory, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, and many more. Bill Bryson collects these broad topics and conveys them in a complicated yet harmonious way. The book does not cover a particular chronological order. Instead, it passes from one topic to another by a simple question of why. This is why the book is packed with facts of a wide range, from solar systems to the original cost of harvesting shrimps. Bryson puts one of the most excellent examples of modern scientific thinking even though he is a journalist and generates questions in the reader's mind as much as answers. The book consists of proved and unproved theories of valuable scientists that he gathered over the years and entertaining and accurate facts on science and the environment. What makes A Short History of Nearly Everything is the natural and understandable way that Bryson disclosed information.

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In my honest opinion, A Short History of Nearly Everything depicts the scientific flowchart nearly perfectly. The Scientific Flowchart is a graphic description of the process of theoretical and experimental thinking. Its steps are implemented by all scientists, whether knowingly or not. Based on this fact, it can be claimed that the book fits the flowchart because Bryson does not present his ideas since he is not a scientist, but rather assembles theories of well-known scientists such as Isaac Newton, Einstein, and Steven Weinberg in a captivating way. These scientists’ methodology is unparalleled, and their fundamental principles and theories bared fruitful results. If anything, A Short History of Nearly Everything can be considered a testament to contemporary scientific thinking. It lays down many great examples and demonstrates how it affects our everyday lives in just one book.

The first invention in the A Short History of Nearly Everything that fits the How the Science Works flowchart is accessible and straightforward, such as instant coffee. The invention or improvement of instant coffee is an excellent example of the Benefits and Outcomes component. Even though its invention goes until the late 1700s, the instant coffee that the world uses today was invented by Nestle in 1937. Before instant coffee, brewing coffee took a long time, and it was not something every household can own because of its short shelf date. It first came out during World War II and was reasonably popular amongst American soldiers. However, the invention that Bryson describes in his book is the one by Nestle. Brazil has large surpluses of Brazilian coffee that are about to get spoiled, so the Coffee Institute president offers Nestle to develop an easy-to-make coffee with a long shelf life. The innovation of instant coffee originated from an everyday problem. A company developed technology to solve this. It also addresses a societal issue because it made coffee more attainable by lowering production and preserving cost, which ultimately cheapened coffee.

In the book, Bryson gives great importance to the history of scientific thinking and its approaches. As reading the history of the science section, one that stood out most to me was Steven Weinberg's approach, a well-known physicist. Weinberg claims that there is no such thing as an 'ultimate theory' because every answer brings out more questions that should be answered and discussed. It generates an infinite chain of principles that goes around in the scientific community. Weinberg describes this as the only room for improvement. Weinberg's claim accords with the community and feedback section of the How the Science Works chart since Weinberg also recommends coming up with new questions and discussing them until you create more problems. In my opinion, discussion and brain-storming are some of the most crucial steps of the flowchart. Academic talks do not always have to carry the ambition of finding an absolute answer to be purposeful. Weinberg, who internalized this approach, created many critical theories regarding atoms.

The last yet the most significant part of the book that is very compatible with the Exploration and Discovery section is the one that covers Isaac Newton and the exploration numerous explorations. The discoveries that Isaac Newton gifted the world with are countless and monumental. He is considered one of the most influential scientists that have ever lived. Bryson states that his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica laid the foundations of mechanical psychics. He is the one who discovered a concept that everyone, gravity, accepts. The steps he followed down this path are an appropriate example for Exploration and Discovery. He made observations on earth and its dynamics while simultaneously generating questions in his mind when serendipitously, an apple fell to his head.

A Short Story of Nearly Everything: Conclusion

An average account might have considered this incident as a coincidence; however, as a remarkable mind who has dedicated himself to scientific thinking, Newton found inspiration from it. When he finalized his theory, it was published for the world's use. However, gravity is not the only thing Newton discovered by observing. In A Brief History of Nearly Everything, it is written that earth was considered round; however, Newton thinks the possibility of it not being a perfect round but rather an oblate spheroid. He generates this theory solely by observing the effects and requirements of gravity (Bryson). Isaac Newton is an inspiring figure that has executed the Exploration and Discovery component perfectly and, as a result, contributed indispensable theories to the world.


Bryson, Bill. A Short History of Nearly Everything. London: Black Swan, 2004.

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Zendaya Kane
Zendaya Kane
Content Lead at Tamara Research. Major in Advertising, loves working.

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