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Book of the week : A Short History of Nearly Everything

A Short History of Nearly Everything By Bill Bryson Doubleday pound;20

Did you know your heart pumps enough blood in a year to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools? That the electricity in your body equals the charge of a thunderstorm? That the blue whale is the largest species ever to have lived on earth? That only one bone in a billion becomes a fossil?

Such is the stuff of wonder in Bill Bryson's latest tour d'universe, served up as breezily as a Supernova burger and Milky Way shake at the intergalactic drive-in.

Not sure what a superstring is? Don't worry, Bryson quickly reassures, neither is he. Expertise is given a short leash in this fizzy collection of gee-whiz moments in science. Instead, in 30 loosely linked chapters, Bryson brings his readers a user-friendly version of the greatest hits of science, from the awesome impetus of the Big Bang to the poignant end of the dodo.

Its cheerful, energetic and, above all, encouraging tone brings to mind nothing so much as a man rolling up his sleeves, about to get really into things, and gesturing, enthusiastically and amiably, for you to do the same.

Sarah Dry is the author of Curie, a Life: an illustrated biography of Marie Curie (Haus Publishing)nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Read more in this week's TES. Friday magazine returns on the 5th September

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