Author: Ryan North
Genre: Fiction, Pop History, Science
Setting: Throughout Human History
What if you are trapped back in time with no foreseeable way to return to your timeline? How do you build the things you are used to? Or basically how do you invent things before they were invented?
The book presents an interesting premise. In the future, a time machine takes you back in time. But like any other machine, it can develop problems, but being stuck back in time, you can’t really call for “road side assistance”. While unable to repair the machine itself, you have this handy guide to help you figure out which era you are in, how to survive in that, and how to “invent” things you already know, so that the contemporary civilization gets a jumpstart to the modern age.
The concept of time travel – while it is central to our story, the author has given a big caveat. Any alterations caused by your presence in the past leads to alternate timelines going forward in parallel, and does not disturb the space-time continuum as it exists in your original timeline. So there are multiple universes existing.
The book is brilliant in teaching the basic guidelines for the major inventions/discoveries, and how one can build them from scratch. From inventing the wheel to building primitive computers, this book has it all. Depending on when you in the past, it can also act as a survival guide. Wondering what our friend Robinson Crusoe would have done with such a guide, when he was stranded on that island!
Of all discoveries, writing is the most important one as it provides a medium to share information to the future generations, without which knowledge can get lost in time, as has been the case with many such discoveries, which had to be re-discovered multiple times! Probably one of the reasons why Europe thrived after the invention of the printing press while the likes of China, India, Egypt, Iran etc. became laggards in the technological race (my key takeaway from the book).
Combining a bit of history, geology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, logic, with humour this book is an interesting take on the major inventions and discoveries which happened to bring humankind to its current shape. Overall, a fun read, although some of the details do get a bit tedious but you can always skim through those!
Previously on BookMarks: Chanakya’s Chant