Spotlight on Science

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Most of us are not scientists; we don’t have degrees in physics, astronomy, archeology, etc. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t curious about where we came from or where we are going. This month’s selections are designed to enable us to, in Bill Bryson’s words, “appreciate—marvel at, enjoy even—the wonder and accomplishments of science at a level that isn’t too technical or demanding, but isn’t entirely superficial either.”


A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is a sweeping study of our universe from the big bang to the present day. How do stars and planets form? What actually happened during the Big Bang? How were we formed? What is the theory of relativity and what does it mean? The earth has a core made of iron and nickel that is as hot as the surface of the sun. Why doesn’t it melt the outer layers of the earth? What is the origin of the scientific method that gave rise to our rapid advances in the last three centuries? This is a fascinating, well-written book that demands a place in everyone’s library. One would not have expected a book with this content to be written by Bryson; he isn’t a scientist, but he spent three years studying books, reading journals and talking to scientists to get the answers to niggling questions he’s had since childhood about why things are the way they are. Read this book. It may not change your life, but it will enrich it.


Neil deGrasse Tyson’s book Astrophysics for People in a Hurry follows the same script. This book reveals the formation of our universe from the Big Bang forward, in a much more detailed fashion. It shows us how stars and planets form and their composition. We learn how the sun produces energy and why it will die in a few billion years. We learn why dark matter must exist but not what it is—nobody knows. Tyson helps us understand our place in the cosmos, and why we are probably not alone in the universe. He also posits that ours may not be the only universe—a contradiction in terms from which the term multiverse arises. An amoeba has no understanding of its place in our universe. We may be no different in relation to a multiverse. The implication of how this understanding can affect human behaviors is profound. It takes a great mind to create simplicity from complexity; hats off to Neil.


Our first two authors take us up to where we are. Michio Kaku takes us to where we go from here. The Future of Humanity gives us a step-by-step progression of how technology will make colonization of the moon, Mars and other parts of our solar system possible. The dramatic increase in human lifespans will create other opportunities … and problems. This isn’t science fiction; it is a mind-expanding treatise on how current and future scientific breakthroughs will change our lives and our place in the universe. Read this book and open your mind to a new and exciting future.


RALPH STAYER, an avid reader and former CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, leads a book club in Naples with about a dozen other high-power friends. The group only reads non-fiction as a way to keep learning and sharpening the mind. Every month, Stayer shares the latest page-turners earning a permanent spot on his ever-expanding bookshelves.


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