What is the book about?
It's about the wonder and mysteries of time and space. It's about the Big Bang Theory and the Theory of Relativity, Newton and Einstein, oceanographers and paleontologists, carbon dating and plate tectonics, avalanches and solar flares, mammoths and fruit flies. Bill Bryson covers a LOT of ground. And in doing so, he helps us put together an astonishing amount of information to shape our knowledge of the universe we inhabit. No mean feat.
Is it all....um...dry and boring?
Not at all! Bill Bryson is an incredible storyteller. He is genuinely curious about the natural world, excited to dig deep for facts, and then willing to write a sunny little story about his findings. He makes everything seem wondrous. This book is an entertainer.
I don't believe it. Show me somethin'!
Check it out yourself. This is Bill Bryson talking about asteroids crossing the Earth's path:
"Think of the Earth's orbit as a kind of motorway on which we are the only vehicle, but which is crossed regularly by pedestrians who don't look before stepping off the pavement. At least 90 percent of these pedestrians are quite unknown to us. We don't know where they live, what sort of hours they keep, how often they come our way. All we know is that, at some point, they trundle across the road down which we are cruising at over 100,000 kilometers an hour. Suppose there was a button you could push and you could light up all the asteroids crossing Earth that were larger than about ten metres. Well, there would be over a hundred million of these objects in the sky...all of which are capable of colliding with the Earth...Well, be unnerved, because they are there. We just can't see them." (pg. 92)
Hair-raising, isn't it?