Back when I lived in Berkeley there were many opportunities to hear important scientists give lectures. Some of the best lectures were by Walter Alvarez and the beauty of living in Berkeley is you occasionally get to meet famous scientists personally. I took advantage of that opportunity several times with Walter in the typical after lecture queue. We all are in awe of his discovery of the Chicxulube crater and his considerable number of proofs that that event some sixty-six million years ago led to the demise of the dinosaurs and permitted the rise of mammals and us humans. Without the event that he exposed I wouldn’t be writing this post and you wouldn’t be reading it.
A Most Improbable Journey by Walter Alvarez is a book for the general public. It covers Big History, all the way from giving us the numbers of how very big our Universe of a home really is, to us. There are roughly a hundred billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy times a hundred billion galaxies, or roughly a number one with twenty-two zeros number of stars. And, as you may have noticed from the published deep space photos taken back toward Earth from afar by space probes, Earth is a tiny place even in the Solar system. This book is about the history of the Universe and how this tiny thing we call our home came to be.
The pages on how common sand came into being were eerie because that common element silicon required a history of repeated concentrating events before it could come onto the beaches and sand dunes that seem so common to us. The book makes many obscure things clear and even obvious. When spoken by a man who knows what he is talking about, many things become easy for an ordinary person to understand.
Everyone, even experts, should read “A Most Improbable Journey” because it demonstrates how to make difficult subjects comprehensible.