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A Brief History of Time: And Other Essays Hardcover – September 1, 1998

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,546 customer reviews

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The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carroll
"The Big Picture" by Sean Carroll
The Big Picture is an unprecedented scientific worldview, a tour de force that will sit on shelves alongside the works of Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, and E. O. Wilson for years to come. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in history, wrote the modern classic A Brief History of Time to help nonscientists understand the questions being asked by scientists today: Where did the universe come from? How and why did it begin? Will it come to an end, and if so, how? Hawking attempts to reveal these questions (and where we're looking for answers) using a minimum of technical jargon. Among the topics gracefully covered are gravity, black holes, the Big Bang, the nature of time, and physicists' search for a grand unifying theory. This is deep science; these concepts are so vast (or so tiny) as to cause vertigo while reading, and one can't help but marvel at Hawking's ability to synthesize this difficult subject for people not used to thinking about things like alternate dimensions. The journey is certainly worth taking, for, as Hawking says, the reward of understanding the universe may be a glimpse of "the mind of God." --Therese Littleton

Review

“[Hawking] can explain the complexities of cosmological physics with an engaging combination of clarity and wit. . . . His is a brain of extraordinary power.”—The New York Review of Books
 
“Lively and provocative . . . Mr. Hawking clearly possesses a natural teacher’s gifts—easy, good-natured humor and an ability to illustrate highly complex propositions with analogies plucked from daily life.”—The New York Times
 
“Even as he sits helpless in his wheelchair, his mind seems to soar ever more brilliantly across the vastness of space and time to unlock the secrets of the universe.”—Time
 
“This book marries a child’s wonder to a genius’s intellect. We journey into Hawking’s universe while marvelling at his mind.”—The Sunday Times (London)
 
“A masterful summary of what physicists now think the world is made of and how it got that way.”—The Wall Street Journal
 
“Charming and lucid . . . [A book of] sunny brilliance.”—The New Yorker
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 10 Anv edition (September 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553109537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553109535
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,546 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Boltz on June 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Hawking is an established scientific genius, but this book establishes him as a brilliant writer - an extremely rare, yet valuable combination. A point he brings to attention is that it had been possible for the philosophers of ancient times to master practically all the knowledge of academia. Today, however, only a handful of extremely specialized scientists understand the latest ideas in their fields. While men of ancient times could easily understand the latest scientific ideas, people today are lost. Enter "A Brief History of Time." This book helps fill in that gap between an average person's understanding and the highly specialized scientists' knowledge.
This book covers ideas that are profound and affect everyone. It explains theories that concern the creation of the universe, time travel, light-speed travel, and many more topics. Imagine actually having some grasp of Einstein's general relativity. Ever heard of string theory? How might time travel actually be possible? What are these black holes of which I've heard? This book packs an incredible amount of information into its 248 pages, yet somehow is still easily read - this is the true marvel of this book.
The illustrated version is worth the extra money. It contains many updates and additions throughout the book by Hawking (including the time travel chapter!). Every (and I mean every) concept throughout the book is accompanied by at least one illustration - think about it: 240 color illustrations with only 248 pages!
Towards the middle of the book, some of the concepts get more complex (when he really gets into the details of sub-atomic particles). However, as a recent high school graduate, I can say with some level of certainty that the average person can understand 90% of this book - and those parts are the most interesting! It will change the way you look at the universe.
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By A Customer on February 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most people know that Hawking is a brilliant physicist, but after reading this book, one develops a respect for his other talents as well. Most noticeable is Stephen Hawking's ability to make very complicated ideas seem quite clear through good explanations, clear comparisons to real life events, and a soft humor. The organization of chapers mostly follows a chronological order, which gives a sense of history from Aristotle to present day, yet also establishes concepts in an order that builds on itself. One also realizes that A Brief History of Time was written by a writer, not a scientist who happened to put ideas to paper. This makes a big difference in the enjoyment of a book, since good information in a dry, dull form can be difficult to read (remember trying to keep your eyes open while reading a dull textbook in a subject of interest?). On the other hand, interesting information presented in an interesting manner make A Brief History of Time as much of a 'page-turner' as physics can be.
In summary, a fountain of information from galaxies and black holes to quantum mechanics presented in such a way that is not only as easy to understand as it can be, but is an enjoyable experience to read.
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Format: Hardcover
I read the original version of 'A Brief History of Time' back in 1988. At the time, Hawking was into ground-breaking territory. The fact that his theories have gained such universal acceptance and that many of them have since been proved is evidence of the brilliance of the mind that thought through the logic.
In this updated version, Hawking moves from time travel to black holes to general relativity, quantum mechanics and even string theory, he never fails to captivate and entrance, even though some of the theories are difficult to grasp.
The sections devoted to black holes and time travel are, in my view, the most interesting... putting a human slant of a highly theorical subject. With the addition of hundreds of amazing illustrations and photos, Hawking has made his revised book extremely readable and colorful, both comprehensive and comprehendable, as one reviewer put it.
An excellent introduction to relativity, big bang, and anything else you might have scratched your head about!
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Format: Paperback
I must say my first reaction was to be surprised at how much better Hawking is at explaining modern physics than my college instructors were. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle was just an equation I learned. Hawking made it seem like common sense.

Hawking tries a little too hard to be witty at times (and punctuates all of his jokes with exclamation points! just in case you missed them!), but all-in-all, this was a quite readable account of what's presently known about cosmology. I use the term "presently" guardedly, as just recently there was some big finding about dark matter (it exists!), but from now on, when there are new findings in physics, I want Hawking to explain them to me, because I feel like then I might understand them. That's why you should read this book.

The reason you should not read this book is because you have no interest in wrestling with abstractions with which you will never interact in daily life, and would rather read about global warming or Darfur or something a bit more topical and practical. This was still a hard read, and I feel like I grasped maybe 80% of it. For you to decide, but for a former engineering student, this was something I wish I had read when I was taking physics.
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