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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553385461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553385465
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 3.5 x 0.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In the 17 years since the publication of A Brief History of Time, Dr. Hawking's bestselling exposition of physics, new data from particle physics and observational astronomy have shed light on efforts to find a Grand Unified Theory of Everything that Hawking and Mlodinow use to enhance and update their answers to basic questions about the universe: where it's going and how it began. Discussed at length are the mysterious dark matter and dark energy-both of which can only be observed by their gravitational effects and are believed to make up 90 percent of the universe. Another area of research that has exploded in the past 20 years is string theory. Hawking and Mlodinow provide one of the most lucid discussions of this complex topic ever written for a general audience. Readers will come away with an excellent understanding of the apparent contradictions and conundrums at the forefront of contemporary physics. Recognizing that much of their audience will also be science fiction buffs, they include a chapter on the possibility of time travel. "Don't bet on it," the authors advise. Throughout these discussions, the authors maintain the same wry, lively tone that made the original Brief History such a delight. They close with a discussion of where physics ends and philosophy begins, "Why does the universe exist at all?" They cannot provide the answer, but they do provide an immense amount of food for thought. Highly recommended.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Scientific American

Hawking's A Brief History of Time, published in 1988, was a surprise best-seller but a tough read for most people who tackled it. Hawking received many requests for a version that would make his discussion of deep questions about the universe more accessible. This book does that. Hawking and Mlodinow, a physicist turned science writer, proceed by small and careful steps from the early history of astronomy to today's efforts to construct a grand unified theory of the universe.

Editors of Scientific American --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Customer Reviews

This is a book you just have to read to understand!
Jonathan Selnes
I read a book on a recent flight for recreation called, A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow.
Jim Estill
A succinct, easy to understand book on a very difficult subject.
Dr. Michael V. Lock

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

311 of 325 people found the following review helpful By A Reader on November 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I do not have a science background, and I did not read a Brief History of Time when it was originally published or thereafter. So this review is written to a fairly small category of potential readers -- those like me with an interest in modern physics but without much background.

I thought the book was exceptionally well written, and it was outstanding in places. It was certainly a very fun read, and I think it achieves a very lofty goal -- making liberal arts grads like me understand both the desirability and potential implications of reconciling general relativity and quantum physics. But, overall, I thought it tried to walk too fine a tightrope between discussing complex subjects and at the same time attempting to be as conversational and accessible as possible. That is a lofty goal -- hard to achieve I think. The reality is that some of these concepts are very very difficult to the uninitiated, so the cursory treatment the authors sometimes give them, in their attempt to make the book accessible and to live up to the "briefER" in the title, actually at times makes the book harder to understand, not easier. It is most acute in the book's introduction to uncertainty, quantum physics, and understanding the implications of interference experiments. More detail, not less, was needed here to reach the authors' goal of accessibility. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't seeking a text heavily laden with mathematics or equations. I just think the overriding editorial doctrine with this book was to condense wherever possible, and that is just not always possible or desirable.
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132 of 137 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Pletko on December 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
+++++

"In this book are lucid revelations on the frontiers of physics, astronomy, cosmology [the study of the universe as a whole], and courage [Dr. Stephen Hawking has ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease contracted when he was young and now is wheelchair bound]. This is also a book about God...or perhaps about the absence of God. The word God fills these pages. Hawking embarks on a quest to answer Einstein's famous question about whether God had any choice in creating the universe. Hawking is attempting, as he explicitly states, to understand the mind of God. And this makes all the more unexpected the conclusion of the effort, at least so far: a universe with no edge in space, no beginning or end in time, and nothing for a Creator to do."

These are the words in the last paragraph of the introduction to Hawking's very first or original book "A Brief History of Time" (1988). These words were written by the late, great Dr. Carl Sagan. (In his introduction, Sagan calls Hawking a "legend.")

Nothing has changed with this new book with respect to what Sagan says above. But as a reader of Hawking's first book, I did notice welcome changes.

First, this new book is more concise. This does not mean this book is drastically shorter than the original. This new book is about twenty pages less than the original. Also this new book contains one more chapter than the original! What this book does is cut out extraneous technical detail from the original and focuses only on the most important concepts but still maintains the essence of the original. Thus, the book seems much more concise.

Next, and this is very important, this book is more accessible.
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93 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on July 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
"A Briefer History of Time" is a graceful summary of spacetime physics, written entirely for non-scientific readers; it contains no formulas, and can be understood by any bright teenager. Before you run out and buy a copy, though, you should know that - due to the book's very short length and intended readership for a general audience - it is very elementary and covers its field in only the briefest of ways. If the reader has read any other popular treatment of this subject in the last few years, there will not be anything new in the "Briefer History."

Given Hawking's stature in the field, most readers would hope to get some kind of unique perspective or approach from this book. Unfortunately, as it is, the book offers little more than an incomplete run-through of a few basic ideas.
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68 of 77 people found the following review helpful By David A. Baer VINE VOICE on June 17, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When I mentioned to my friend Carver Yu that I was reading this book, he scrunched up his face in the way that only a man who knows the field well can do and commented, `Well, of course, that book contains a fair bit of metaphysical speculation.'

Precisely.

That is what makes Hawking's attempt to simplify his original one-syllable-less A Brief History of Time such a beguiling reader for a non-specialist like me. Call it metaphysical speculation or call it a daring attempt to translate the astrophysicists' language into yours and mine without losing the power of asking us to imagine a world nearly completely different than the one we thought we lived in. Call it what you want, it's still a read well worth the effort it requires.

Don't shy away from finishing this book if you don't understand it all. Allow it the chance to paint an impressionistic portrait of what physicists--many of them justly awe-struck by the object of their inquiry--believe that they see `out there' when some of humanity's best minds ask the fundamental questions and follow the theories (theirs is a theory-rich pursuit) where they lead. Many of those theories, as Hawking describes them, will sound like nonsense. Unless sense is different than we thought.

When I was at Cambridge, I used to bicycle past the severely disabled Stephen Hawking in his wheelchair, followed by his personal nurse, as he wheeled between home and office, his mind no doubt drifting far from the concrete course of his wheelchair across the Commons. One wonders whether paragraphs of Briefer History and other of his works were taking shape as our paths crossed.

Metaphysical speculation for those who dare to imagine things they may not fully understand. Things like wormholes, peabrains, and a universe curved so severely that words almost fail in the explaing of it.

If that sounds provocative enough to justify the effort, this book is for you.
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