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The Summary of a Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

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The first section focuses on our universe and where we fit in. The first chapter details the Big Bang Theory, which suggests that the universe was formed in just a few brief moments, it talks about what is needed to start a universe and how infinitesimally small the stuff that makes our universe is. Two young astronomers, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, accidentally detected visible matter believed to be remnants of the Big Bang, when they experienced static while trying to broadcast something, and thus inadvertently discovered what could be evidence of this now-popular theory. Although they shared a Nobel Prize for their work, neither man realized the significance of their discovery until they read about it in The New York Times.

In section 2 the size, shape, weight and orbit of the Earth are the main focus. In this part, Bryson gives and overview of important geologists such as Henry Cavendish, who, in 1797, measured, with accuracy, the weight of the Earth. These chapters also discus Marie Curie’s work with uranium, and explain why it was a European, not an American, as it should have been if people noticed what they had, who first described a dinosaur.

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The third section is about the theory of relativity and quantum physics at as simple a level as possible. This section shows us the flexible fabric of spacetime and the insane amount of energy trapped in each and every molecule. It also attacks the crazy, complex world of the sub-atomic, where for something to exist it must be observed, electrons teleport, and the universe is comprised of mostly nothing.

The startling truths in Part 4 show us the dangers the Earth faces each day. These include the super volcano in Yellowstone, they quite likely possibility of a meteor impact, earthquakes not bound by tectonic plates, the possibility of another ice age, and of course global warming.

The last section is about life on earth. Life is astonishingly abundant, and, for no reason we know of, lacking in diversity. Every single living organism has the same blueprint, which he uses to point to a common ancestor. He wraps it up by pointing out how lucky we are to by here. More than 90 percent of all species that have lived on Earth since the beginning of time have gone extinct, some just through natural processes and others because of mankind’s messing with the planet.


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