Pandemics and More: Bill Bryson on the Perils of Planet Earth

Bill Bryson’s stunning exploration of the scientific endeavor leaves us with a sobering thought: as powerful as we humans feel, the real truth is that we’re only a stroke of luck away from total annihilation most days of the week. And global pandemics aren’t the only reason why.

Study Guide for LitCharts

In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson argues that life on Earth is essentially a long shot. The slightest differences in cosmic, geological, and biological events in history would have prevented life from being created at all. It’s even more surprising to learn that our cosmic odds of survival are unnervingly low.

The likelihood of a meteor striking Earth and obliterating life (just as one did for the dinosaurs 65 million years ago) is so high that the absence of such an impact during the evolution cycle that gave rise to humans is nothing short of a miracle… read more

Bryson estimates that approximately 2000 asteroids capable of obliterating life on Earth regularly cross our orbit, meaning that the threat of destruction by asteroid impact is very real and ever-present.