instead describing general sciences such as chemistry, paleontology, astronomy, and particle physics. In it, he explores time from the Big Bang to the discovery of quantum mechanics, via evolution and geology. Bryson tells the story of science through the stories of the people who made the discoveries, such as Edwin Hubble, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. Background
Bill Bryson wrote this book because he was dissatisfied with his scientific knowledge — that was, not much at all. He writes that science was a distant, unexplained subject at school. Textbooks and teachers alike did not ignite the passion for knowledge in him, mainly because they never delved in the whys, hows, and whens. "It was as if [the textbook writer] wanted to keep the good stuff secret by making all of it soberly unfathomable." —Bryson, on the state of science books used within his school. 
Bryson describes graphically and in layperson's terms the size of the universe, and that of atoms and subatomic particles. He then explores the history of geology and biology, and traces life from its first appearance to today's modern humans, placing emphasis on the development of the modern Homo sapiens. Furthermore, he discusses the possibility of the Earth's being struck by a meteor, and reflects on human capabilities of spotting a meteor before it impacts the Earth, and the extensive damage that such an event would cause. He also focuses on some of the most recent destructive disasters of volcanic origin in the history of our planet, including Krakatoa and Yellowstone National Park. A large part of the book is devoted to relating humorous stories about the scientists behind the research and discoveries and their sometimes eccentric behaviours. Bryson also speaks about modern scientific views on human effects on the Earth's climate and livelihood of other species, and the magnitude of natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and the mass extinctions caused by some of these events. The book does, however, contain a number of factual errors and inaccuracies. An illustrated edition of the book was released in November 2005. A few editions in Audiobook form are also available, including an abridged version read by the author, and at least three unabridged versions. 
Awards and reviews
The book received generally favourable reviews, with reviewers citing the book as informative, well written and highly entertaining. However, some feel that the contents might be uninteresting to an audience with prior knowledge of history or the sciences. In 2004, this book won Bryson the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book. Bryson later donated the GBP£10,000 prize to the Great Ormond Street Hospital children's charity. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication. It was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for the same year.
Unremitting scientific effort over the past 300 years has yielded an astonishing amount of information about the world we inhabit. By rights we ought to be very impressed and extremely interested. Unfortunately many of us simply aren't. Far from attracting the best candidates, science is proving a less and less popular subject in schools. And, with a few notable exceptions, popular books on scientific topics are a rare bird in the bestseller lists. Bill Bryson, the travel-writing phenomenon, thinks he knows what has gone wrong. The anaemic, lifeless prose of standard science textbooks, he argues, smothers at birth our innate curiosity about the natural world....