Speaking of Bad Late-Night Ideas . . .
William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout."
For this quote, Bryson cites Bertrand Russell's A History of Western Philosophy. Which means that, by quoting this, I'm quoting Bill Bryson's quote of Bertrand Russell's quote of William James's quote of some anonymous nitrous addict. This Russian-doll moment has been brought to you by the Kevin Bacon game.
By the way, it took me fourteen minutes to write this thing because the goddamn computer seized up nine times---once for tw(dammit, that's ten!)o whole minutes.