~Meniscus Archives~
Summer/Fall 2005
Issue #8

Issue #8 Home


Fuel Cell Technology Will Change Our World
Paul Matthews and Jon Heinrich
Quite simply, hydrogen fuel cells are like batteries, except they never run dry as long if constantly supplied with fuel and air. The fossil fuel shortage is about to catapult this technology to the forefront of industry to facilitate off-the-grid living.

A Short History of Nearly Everything
A review by Chrystie Hopkins
This 2003 best seller from author Bill Bryson takes the reader from the birth of the universe all the way through the lucky breaks we have experienced as a species to allow us to be standing here now. Truly a miracle!

Supplemental Thinking
Meniscus Magazine is here to support mind expansion. Take a moment to focus on chemical science! Find out what nutrients from the health food store can revitalize your precious grey area.

Sunshine is a State of Mind
Seasonal depression is real. Getting enough Vitamin D means nothing but fun in the sun! How much do I need? Glad you asked!
$300 Billion Dollars for WAR!
Compiled by Chrystie Hopkins
It is difficult to understand what $300 billion dollars is equivalent to, it is beyond comprehension. Here are some facts to put it in perspective.
Cindy Sheehan, WMD and Bush's Pretext
for Waging War on Iraq

Jason Leopold
Still trying to figure out what’s eating Cindy Sheehan? Perhaps its that none of the intelligence that president Bush used to rationalize the war has ever panned out. WMDs, ballistic missiles, unmanned drones... Whatever Cindy, get over it!


A Short History of Nearly Everything

A book review by
Chrystie Hopkins

Published 9/18/05

“If you are in good health and averagely diligent about hygiene, you will have a herd of about one trillion bacteria grazing on your fleshy plains—about a hundred thousand of them on every square centimeter of skin. They are there to dine off the ten billion or so flakes of skin you shed everyday, plus all the tasty oils and fortifying minerals that seep out from every pore and fissure. You are for them the ultimate food court, with the convenience of warmth and constant mobility thrown in. By way of thanks, they give you B.O.”

This is one of the many fun facts about science in the 2003 best seller from author Bill Bryson. In A Short History of Nearly Everything the celebrated travel writer takes us on the ultimate adventure. Bryson begins to tackle our scientific history by exploring the birth of our universe. The miracle of Bryson’s prose is that he can be technical, detailed and comedic in a single sentence. His ability to recount the many wonders of our universe in scientific terms that both the learned scientist and scientifically challenged can understand makes for a refreshing read. Your mind is equally challenged and entertained. (He explains how this is possible in Chapter 28, The Mysterious Biped.)

The creation of our universe is a subject that is debated: science vs. faith. However, Bryson tells the story in a way that proves that the Big Bang and Genesis can co-exist. It is refreshing because never once does he mention a divine creation of the universe but his description of the supposed events detail the true miracle of the universe and let the reader fill in the spiritual blanks. The question of how we are here is detailed in this 544-page book, but the answer to why we are here is still open for debate.

Tackling a book that covers “nearly everything” is no easy task. Bryson has organized his book more by subject matter than chronological order, but within each subject we journey back to the origins of scientific research.

The pioneers of physics, chemistry, geology, astronomy and biology (to name a few), are all given attention. This book is so much more than a bland accounting of scientific research past. Bryson gives an intriguing history of researchers from the past to the present, as well as a look into the many controversies and rivalries in the science community. Bryson does an excellent job of giving the reader all sides of an issue and allows the reader to come to their own conclusion based on the evidence. I have not been this excited to learn about science since fourth grade. All of the facts and details are woven into a colorful story that plays out like a fictitious novel, revealing another clue to the mystery of life with each flip of the page.

The most stunning thing is that this is not a work of fiction. Many times during my extended read of A Short History of Nearly Everything I had to put down the book and truly absorb what I had just read. For example,

  • From Earth, Pluto is barely one fifty-thousandth of the way to the edge of our solar system.
  • Every day, the Gulf Stream carries an amount of heat to Europe equivalent to the world’s output of coal for ten years, which is why Britain and Ireland have such mild winters compared with Canada and Russia.
  • Under the western United States there was a huge cauldron of magma, a colossal volcanic hot spot, which erupted cataclysmically every 600,000 years or so. The last such eruption was just over 600,000 years ago. The hot spot is still there. These days we call it Yellowstone National Park.
  • The distance from the surface of the Earth to the center is 3,959 miles, which isn’t so very far. It has been calculated that if you sunk a well to the center and dropped a brick into it, it would take only forty-five minutes to hit the bottom (though at that point it would be weightless since all the Earth’s gravity would be above and around it rather than beneath it.)
  • Altogether there are about 5,200 million million tons of air around us—25 million tons for every square mile of the planet.
  • Of the 3 percent of the Earth’s water that is fresh, most exists as ice sheets. Only the tiniest amount—0.036 percent—is found in lakes, rivers and reservoirs, and an even smaller part—just 0.001 percent—exists in clouds or as vapor.
  • Every human body consists of about 10 quadrillion cells, but about 100 quadrillion bacterial cells.

The overwhelming message throughout A Short History of Nearly Everything is that we should all be very grateful to be alive today because it truly is a miracle. From the beginning of our universe, to the creation of life and the “lucky breaks” we have received as a species, everything in the history of our universe has aligned itself perfectly to allow us to be here today. Bryson takes great care to simultaneously warn us and teach us about the subtleties of life that are essential to our creation and survival. This is a very personal and intimate book because it is the micro and macro history of YOU.


Meniscus Magazine © 2005. All material is property of respective artists.