A Short History of Nearly Everything PDF and Summary [Book Short]

Why We All Need To Be More Curious

Take a step outside of yourself for a moment…

In fact, take a step outside of being a human at all.

Imagine for a second that you are the universe.

When you do this, you realize that us humans are completely insignificant from the perspective of the universe. Every human ever born lives and dies on a chunk of rock, rotating around the sun, rotating around the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of the billions in our infinite universe.

We’re far less important than we think we are.

And yet…

Everything had to work out exactly the way it did for us to come into existence.

 

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The Milky Way had to form ~12.21 billion years ago and the Earth had to form ~4.43 billion years ago. Our species, Homo sapiens, had to survive countless threats to pop up ~160,000 years ago, which is but a minor blip on the vast cosmic timeline.

What makes us significant is that we’re the first species to realize all of this.

That’s what makes us matter — we’re the species that was curious enough to ask questions and develop cognitive tools to help discover the answers.

How Will You Decide To View This World?

We have two options for viewing our world.

The first viewpoint is predefined. All the questions are answered from on high, based on whichever religious doctrine we adhere to.

The second is undefined. All of our questions haven’t been answered (and may never be) because we’re acutely aware of just how much we do not know.

The opinion of us here at Thought Stack is simple…

A life devoid of curiosity is boring.

With new mind-blowing discoveries happening all the time, we need to realize there is much left to learn. Curiosity is a core trait that we need to continually cultivate.

You might be asking, “Where does curiosity end? Isn’t there a point at which we can rest easy?”

It never ends. Curiosity is the driving force behind our progression as individuals and as a species.

Why are we able to ask questions in the first place? If we ask it, then it needs an answer.

Science Isn’t The Answer To All Of Our Problems

If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that there’s a growing distrust of science among the public. The “debate” over climate change is case in point.

At the same time, we shouldn’t venerate science and turn it into a religion of its own. Science is a tool our species created to be able to ask questions and test them in a rigorous manner. It’s the shovel used to dig a hole, not the reason why you’re digging the hole in the first place.

We tend to confuse this point. We need to understand why are we digging: to advance our species’ evolution and create better lives for all of us.

If we invert the idea of evolution, we get regression. If we chose to do nothing and keep things exactly the way they are now, we’ll waste this precious opportunity to understand ourselves and the world around us.

The universe wants to be understood. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the cognition to attempt it.

There are over seven billion people on this planet. Should we bet on a few smart people to pull us all forward as a species, or should we help the masses help us all progress?

Find A Purpose

Our advancement as a species is enabled through automation. Technologies such as machine learning, robotics, and especially self-driving cars are going to put a huge strain on our societal structures.

The transition period will not be pleasant. People need meaning in their lives. Presently, work is a primary source of meaning for much of the world.

But if you’ve been a truck driver for 40 years, and self-driving cars take that entire career away from humans, what are you going to do with your time?

Are you going to want to learn a new skill? These are tough questions that need to answered fast.

I hope we’ll be able to use this new-found time to look deeper into ourselves and discover a new sense of purpose. What if we had a universal basic income that took care of the basic needs of all individuals? Do you think our society would progress faster than its current rate?

Maybe part of our evolution is to not have basic needs anymore.

Could money, food, sleep, all be looked at as antiquated 100 years from now? That sounds far-fetched, but wouldn’t our society look magical to people 2,000 years ago?

Actionable Nugget

Think about how our species might progress in the next 100 years.

Should we strive to advance our species? In what ways? What is your meaningful contribution?

The easiest way to start is by learning a new skill. The more skills you can add to your life toolbox, the higher your probability is for advancing society in some way.

Scott Adams calls this your Talent Stack. You don’t have to be world-class in one skill to help society. You can be average at a few, but when you combine them, you become world-class in your own right.

Remember this: winning the lottery of being born was the luckiest you’ll ever get.

You exist. Cash it in by doing something you feel is meaningful.

Stay Thought-Full,
Jon & Kevin

Appendix: Facts I Loved From A Short History of Nearly Everything

The Big…Silent?

“A physicist is the atom’s’ way of thinking about atoms.” -Anonymous

You’ve probably heard of the Big Bang. No I’m not talking about the TV show. I’m talking about the 10-43 seconds that scientists believe it took for the Universe to go from microscopic to infinite.

For you non-scientists, 10-43 looks like this:

0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001

That’s one in ten million-trillion-trillion-trillionths of a second.

Pretty damn quick if you ask me. You know the saying if a tree falls and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If no one was around to witness the Big Bang, might it have been the Big Silent?

Here’s something even more mind-blowing: some scientists believe that Big Bangs are common. What makes this one special is that we were able to live in it. However, before we get to us humans, let’s take a closer look at the roundish rock that supports all life in the universe (as far as we know).

Gravity Keeps Bringing Me Down

If Goldilocks and the Three Bears was a science story, it’d be worried about getting “just the right amount” of gravity.

If gravity was a bit stronger after the Big Bang, the universe might have imploded on itself. If it was a bit weaker, elements may not have been stable and the universe would have been one big void of scattered debris.

We can’t complain too much about gravity — it’s perfect for us.

Thanks to gravity, drifting space debris aggregated to form stars, planets, galaxies, solar systems, and…us.

Right now, the universe is just the way we like it. But that doesn’t mean it will stay this way. Scientists call this the Goldilocks Principle. If gravity weakens or strengthens, things can turn bad for us. This probably won’t happen in our lifetime (or ever), but it’s interesting to think about.

You’re Made of Stars

You and I are both made of atoms. As the famous astronomer Carl Sagan stated back in the early 80s:

 “We are a way for the universe to know itself. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return. And we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star-stuff.” Carl Sagan

Breaking down his statement, we are made up of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, as well as all other heavy elements that were created in the previous generation of stars over 4.5 billion years ago.

When someone asks you who your ancestors are, don’t forget to name a few stars along with your grandparents.

Our Beautiful and Treacherous Earth

“The history of any one part of the Earth, like the life of a soldier, consists of long periods of boredom and short periods of terror.” – British geologist Derek V. Ager.

The center of the Earth is a solid core made of iron and nickel that reaches nearly 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Surrounding that is an outer core made of liquid iron and nickel.

The widest section of the Earth is the mantle, which is made of a semi-molten rock called magma. Finally, we come to where we live, the crust, which varies between 0 and 40 miles deep.

Our crust is made up of eight to twelve big plates or twenty or so smaller ones that all move in different directions and at different speeds.

Eventually, California (where I live) will break off of the United States and become Madagascar-esque in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Europe and North America are parting at about the speed a fingernail grows.

The Mighty Cloud

Growing up, my dad would take me backcountry camping in Yosemite. Since we didn’t have cell phones back then, we spent most of our free time staring at the clouds.

Do you remember looking up at the clouds and seeing dragons and boats instead of white blogs? Our imaginations are powerful things when they are left to their own devices.

In the first International Cloud Atlas, produced in 1896, they divided clouds into ten basic types based on their unique features. The most cushiony-looking one was number nine, cumulonimbus. Now you know why people say “to be on cloud nine”…it was the comfy one!

Clouds are made from evaporated water. When water molecules accumulate and get heavy they form droplets and fall back to earth. About 60% of water molecules in a rainfall are returned back to the atmosphere within a day or two. Once evaporated, they spend no more than a week or so before falling back to Earth as rain.

When certain conditions manifest, these clouds can produce thunderstorms. At any one moment, there are around 1,800 thunderstorms in progress. That equates to around 40,000 per day. That means day and night there are hundreds of lightning strikes hitting the ground every second.

The Road to Us

“Descended from the apes! My dear, let us hope that it is not sure, but if it is, let us pray that it will not become generally known. – Remark attributed to the wife of the Bishop of Worcester after Darwin’s theory of evolution was explained to her.

We are descendants of apes, who are in turn descendants of simpler life forms. According to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, an organism’s beneficial mutations are preserved because they aid survival — this is called “natural selection.” These beneficial mutations are then passed on to future generations and over time accumulate and result in an entirely different organism.

That means 99.99% of all species that have ever lived are no longer with us. Thousands of years from now, future organisms might look at us as we look at apes today. Of course, this assumes we don’t kill ourselves or the planet before we even get to the future.

We also share a majority of our DNA with other species. Over 60% of human genes are fundamentally the same as those found in fruit flies and at least 90% correlate at some level to those found in mice.

We need to start viewing all plants, animals, and fungi as ourselves and have the cognitive wherewithal that we live in a complex system that needs to be treated with respect if we want to keep it hospitable for all.

 

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