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The Grand Design [Hardcover]

Stephen Hawking , Leonard Mlodinow
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (638 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 7, 2010 0553805371 978-0553805376 1ST
The first major work in nearly a decade by one of the world's great thinkers—a marvelously concise book with new answers to the ultimate questions of life:
 
When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation?

The most fundamental questions about the origins of the universe and of life itself, once the province of philosophy, now occupy the territory where scientists, philosophers, and theologians meet—if only to disagree. In their new book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by both brilliance and simplicity.

In The Grand Design, they explain that according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. When applied to the universe as a whole, this idea calls into question the very notion of cause and effect. But the “top-down” approach to cosmology that Hawking and Mlodinow describe would say that the fact that the past takes no definite form means that we create history by observing it, rather than that history creates us. The authors further explain that we ourselves are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe, and show how quantum theory predicts the “multiverse”—the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.

Along the way Hawking and Mlodinow question the conventional concept of reality, posing a “model-dependent” theory of reality as the best we can hope to find. And they conclude with a riveting assessment of M-theory, an explanation of the laws governing us and our universe that is currently the only viable candidate for a complete “theory of everything.” If confirmed, they write, it will be the unified theory that Einstein was looking for, and the ultimate triumph of human reason.

A succinct, startling, and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform—and provoke—like no other.

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Stephen Hawking on The Grand Design

How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? Over twenty years ago I wrote A Brief History of Time, to try to explain where the universe came from, and where it is going. But that book left some important questions unanswered. Why is there a universe--why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?

It was Einstein’s dream to discover the grand design of the universe, a single theory that explains everything. However, physicists in Einstein’s day hadn’t made enough progress in understanding the forces of nature for that to be a realistic goal. And by the time I had begun writing A Brief History of Time, there were still several key advances that had not yet been made that would prevent us from fulfilling Einstein’s dream. But in recent years the development of M-theory, the top-down approach to cosmology, and new observations such as those made by satellites like NASA’s COBE and WMAP, have brought us closer than ever to that single theory, and to being able to answer those deepest of questions. And so Leonard Mlodinow and I set out to write a sequel to A Brief History of Time to attempt to answer the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. The result is The Grand Design, the product of our four-year effort.

In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a "model-dependent" theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why quantum theory predicts the multiverse--the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete "theory of everything." As we promise in our opening chapter, unlike the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life given in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer we provide in The Grand Design is not, simply, "42."

(Photo © Philip Waterson, LBIPP, LRPS)


From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The three central questions of philosophy and science: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other? No one can make a discussion of such matters as compulsively readable as the celebrated University of Cambridge cosmologist Hawking (A Brief History of Time). Along with Caltech physicist Mlodinow (The Drunkard's Walk), Hawking deftly mixes cutting-edge physics to answer those key questions. For instance, why do we exist? Earth occupies a "Goldilocks Zone" in space: just the perfect distance from a not-too-hot star, with just the right elements to allow life to evolve. On a larger scale, in order to explain the universe, the authors write, "we need to know not only how the universe behaves, but why." While no single theory exists yet, scientists are approaching that goal with what is called "M-theory," a collection of overlapping theories (including string theory) that fill in many (but not all) the blank spots in quantum physics; this collection is known as the "Grand Unified Field Theories." This may all finally explain the mystery of the universe's creation without recourse to a divine creator. This is an amazingly concise, clear, and intriguing overview of where we stand when it comes to divining the secrets of the universe. 41 color illus. throughout, 7 b&w cartoons.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; 1ST edition (September 7, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553805371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553805376
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (638 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #31,790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
834 of 939 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting book. August 23, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book began not with a Bang, but with a shudder. On the first page, I read the phrase (and yes it's a proof so this may be changed in the actual version): "Philosophy is dead". No one can argue that there is a modern day philospher with the influence of Aristotle; but surely, philosophy can't be dead!?

However, reading onward, the authors made their point quite convincingly: philosophy is dead in the sense of answering the most mysterious of life's questions. It is up to science, and scientific theory, to provide clues to the true answers, as philosphy in its most ancient forms has taken a back seat, but modern philosphy, that of scientific philosophy, has taken root.

This book, you'll find as you read, is dumbed down. But it's not stupid or simple. While the math and the proofs of the math are essentially missing (a great boon for laymen like myself), the philosophical science is presented in a very interesting, detailed, and thought provoking way. It is not as difficult, and oft-maniacal, a read as Emmanuel Levinas, instead it's somewhere closer to Lucretius's On the Nature of Things (ironically).

And so the authors move on in sequential and ordered fashion, trying to answer: Why is there something? Why do we exist? Why this set of natural law? The theories they expound upon are sometimes old, and sometimes groundbreakingly new, but all will either surprise you, educated you, or both; but in the least, make you think about reality and your own existence, and the reality of your existence.

This book has illustrations every now and then. Most are of no use but to entertain you, in my opinion. Some are there to actually educate you in at least a small way.
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332 of 371 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern physics simplified August 26, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is both shorter and more clearly written than any other physics book I've read, including Hawking's other works. If you are interested in physics but don't have the patience to read something long and detailed such as Roger Penrose's "The Road to Reality" then this is a great book for you. Even if you simply want to compare "The Grand Design" to less detailed pop physics books with minimal mathematics, it holds up very well. Usually the analogies that lay physics books employ in an attempt to make intuitive sense of mathematical concepts become quite strained, but for some reason everything seems to work here and the authors don't push them too far.

I was concerned by some of the things that were said at the outset such as "philosophy is dead" - each academic discipline requires years of study and can't reasonably be dismissed out of hand by someone who is an expert in another field - but my concerns were eased by the rest of the book. The quest for a grand unified theory of physics, the ultimate topic of many lay physics books, does sound philosophical and has resulted in various theories that are currently highly speculative and difficult to test. The M-Theory discussed in "The Grand Design" sounds more reasonable than the many alternatives but all are still very weak as far as scientific theories go.

If you lack patience for mathematical formulas and want a short, clearly written physics book that minimizes the mathematics while still surveying the basic concepts of physics and introducing the more speculative current topics, I haven't read anything better than "The Grand Design".
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283 of 324 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In a mere 180 pages, Leonard Mlodinow, the author of the excellent "The Drunkard's Walk" and of debates arguing against Deepak Chopra, and Stephen Hawking, expound a subjective interpretation of quantum physics, and offer a theory to try to unify all of the underlying forces of nature. A grandiose undertaking; along the way, they revisit the philosophical questions of Free Will, the origin of the universe(s) without a creator-God, and vividly describe some of the counter-intuitive concepts generated by quantum physics' strangeness.
They believe that we inhabit one universe in a multiverse version of quantum physics, in which there are an almost infinite number of universes that can arise spontaneously from the "big bang", and which then dictate the laws of nature that follow. This promotion of the so-called "strong anthropic principle" may offend some scientists and philosophers. The role of observation in determining quantum reality, and of its ability to alter the past in events in the quantum world, are just some of the seemingly bizarre concepts elaborated. This includes even the consequences of the delayed slit-lamp experiments. The cornerstone of their approach to quantum physics utilises Richard Feynman's theory of a sum of histories. Further underlying this, is the assumption that "reality" in our world is dependent on the model we use, and that if different models can successfully explain scientific phenomena, then each model must be considered equally "real".
The clarity of the explanations are garnished with bits of humor that are tastefully incorporated without being intrusive. There is no math required, merely good use of logic in order to follow the arguments presented.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars very interesting!
The book was simplified enough that the concepts were fairly easy to understand. It was detailed and gave great examples. I think that if someone asked me about string theory.... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Stephanie Jardim
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, a real mind opener as to whether it's sceince or God?
Stephen Hawking has only one chapter in this book that is for the extremely smart, but the rest of the book deals with mind altering science and religion that is written for us... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Mark Norman Schurr
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Your Mind
If you find that being told what to believe is unfulfilling, try fact based thinking. This book is a great place to start building a basis of actual facts to inform your view of... Read more
Published 17 days ago by John E. Phillips
3.0 out of 5 stars a different perspective
Hawking is truly a man that sees things with a scientist eye. The math, for me, was somewhat hard to understand, but everything made sense. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Susan Young
3.0 out of 5 stars This book falls short of Hawking's previous works
I don't feel that this book offers anything new that hasn't been covered in other publications. I feel that Hawking relys too much on Richand Feynman's theories instead of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by SINCLAIR W STICKLE
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking.
It was a great book. Challenged your mind and introduce new concepts. It was written so the average person could read and UNDERSTAND. Hawking may be the smartest man alive.
Published 1 month ago by Joe B. Hollingsworth
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts off as an easy read but progressively becomes complicated
The good thing about the book is that its quite brief, around 200 pages and written by Physics' celebrity of our age. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Ozzy Ahmed
1.0 out of 5 stars I regret having to say this - but the lack of circulation and movement...
I am always mystified and dumbfounded by atheists who claim God does not exist. it's one thing to say YOU DO NOT BELIEVE.
It's quite another to claim God does not exist. Read more
Published 1 month ago by AlchemicalReaction.blogspot.com
5.0 out of 5 stars absorbing
This is the second time I have read this book. Although I cannot say that i fully understood everything, I got enough to appreciate the basics and the intellect of the authors. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard Robbins
4.0 out of 5 stars A great listen.
Open and expand your mind. Stay open to different explanations for why we are here and how our universe began. Read more
Published 2 months ago by allen scott
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I was raised Catholic and praying was a huge part of my religious beliefs until I became an adult. I saw the pain and suffering in the world and all the real-life situations that were supposed to be acts of God. Some people in world starving, while some had plenty. What type of God inflicts the... Read More
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I've never, ever seen a Kindle book that is abridged, although sometimes I find that footnotes are missing from some books, but all the content is there.
Jan 8, 2011 by M. Austin |  See all 3 posts
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Hello Clifton,

"Now, there should be no objection to calling the evolutionist beliefs a religion,"

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What Hawking states about the Universe and God is neither new nor surprising nor shocking to physicists and cosmologists. Let me say a few words about cosmology.

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Albert Einstein's theory of gravity is generally explained in a wrong way Be the first to reply
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