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A Short History of Nearly Everything

A journey into the most intriguing and intractable questions that science seeks to answer

By Bill Bryson
  • Read in 21 minutes
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  • Contains 13 key ideas
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A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything offers an enlightening summary of contemporary scientific thinking relating to all aspects of life, from the creation of the universe to our relationship with the tiniest of bacteria.

Key idea 1 of 13

The Big Bang theory suggests the universe was formed by a singularity in a brief moment.

In 1965, two radio astronomers puzzled over a strange noise they noticed while experimenting with a communications antenna. It turned out that this noise wasn’t just an annoyance.

The sound originated 90 billion trillion miles away, at the very moment of the universe’s creation: an event now known as the Big Bang.

Although the discovery was accidental, it earned the astronomers the Nobel Prize in physics and helped popularize the Big Bang theory. This states that our universe began from a single point of nothingness called a singularity, a point so compact that it has no dimensions.

It is in this single, dense point that the building blocks of the universe were once confined. Suddenly, for reasons yet unknown, this singularity exploded in “a single blinding pulse,” flinging the future contents of our universe across the void.

Although the reasons why the “bang” happened are still unknown, scientists have more clarity about what happened afterwards.

In the Big Bang, matter, or the contents of that singularity, expanded so rapidly that the entire universe formed within the time it might take you to assemble a sandwich. Practically immediately after the explosion, the universe inflated dramatically, doubling in size every 10^-34 seconds – that is, very very quickly. 

We know that, alongside the fundamental forces that govern our universe, 98 percent of all matter in the universe was created within a mere three minutes. The universe now spans a diameter of at least one hundred billion light years, and continues to expand, even now.

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