I love learning new facts about the world around me, but I still have to be tricked a little bit into sitting down and educating myself. I need my information to come with a great, big side order of entertainment. Thankfully, there are plenty of sources catering to my need for infotainment. One of the best books I burrowed through on a search for enlightenment was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. The former travel writer (he has recently been branching out) lays bare the history of the planet and the science that gave us our knowledge about it. Me being a language guy more than a science dude, it was tough going for bits of it when the going got a little too abstract. On the whole, however, Bryson is great at simplifying complex concepts for common folk (like me) and he garnishes the book with plenty of entertaining anecdotes. You come away thinking that: a. some scientists were seriously weird and b. the world is a wondrous place with many mysteries yet to be uncovered. Oh, and did you know a comet could hit the planet at any time without us having noticed its approach? Exciting, isn’t it?
The Mental Floss team publishes a bimonthly magazine for ‘knowledge junkies’ and has also crafted some books, all with the following concept: bits of trivia – be they historical, scientific or cultural – creatively combined and brought to boil with a sense of humour. I am a great fan of this recipe that allows you to dip in and get a quick fix even when on the run. They also have a site that offers you some perfectly free factoids, though beware – the sneaky bastards are trying to get you hooked.
If you want to test your newly acquired knowledge, there is an online quiz to do that with: Jellyvision’s You Don’t Know Jack. The questions are oddly twisted, which makes hearing them and the possible multiple-choice answers as satisfying as actually getting them right. Beware though: if you fail to do so, the snarky host will mock you.
Now get out there kids and remember: learning is fun, fun, FUN!