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With a title inspired as much by Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series as Einstein, The Theory of Everything delivers almost as much as it promises. Transcribed from Stephen Hawking's Cambridge Lectures, the slim volume may not present a single theory unifying gravity with the other fundamental forces, but it does carefully explain the state of late 20th-century physics with the great scientist's characteristic humility and charm. Explicitly shunning math, Hawking explains the fruits of 100 years of heavy thinking with metaphors that are simple but never condescending--he compares the settling of the newborn universe into symmetry to the formation of ice crystals in a glass of water, for example. While he explores his own work (especially when speaking about black holes), he also discusses the important milestones achieved by others like Richard Feynman. Though occasionally an impenetrably obscure phrase does slip by, the reader will find the bulk of the text enlightening and engaging. The material, from the nature of time to the possibility that the universe has no beginning or end, is rich and deep and inevitably ignites metaphysical thinking. After all, Hawking is famous for his "we would know the mind of God" remark, which ends the final lecture herein. --Rob Lightner
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
...can explain the complexities of cosmological physics with an engaging combination of clarity and with ... his is a brain of extraordinary power. --The New York Review of Books
Stephen Hawking's ability to make science understandable and compelling to a lay audience was established with the publication of his first book, A Brief History of Time, which has sold nearly 10 million copies in 40 languages. Hawking has authored or participated in the creation of numerous other popular science books, including The Universe in a Nutshell, A Briefer History of Time, On the Shoulders of Giants, The Illustrated On the Shoulders of Giants, and George's Secret Key to the Universe.
"...minus several million for good thinking..." - Zaphod Beeblebrox, THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
The above quote (and the score I've assigned to this book) aren't in reference to the text or the author, but to the publishers. Why anyone with the brains of a sea urchin would cross Professor Hawking as they seem to have done is beyond me.
Briefly, save your money and buy THE ILLUSTRATED BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME instead of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, even if you're a compulsive Hawking completist. Alert readers should notice that Hawking doesn't hold the copyright for THEORY OF EVERYTHING, and attempted to block its publication. It was originally titled THE CAMBRIDGE LECTURES: LIFE WORKS, and appears to have been drawn from some recordings of lectures given by the professor years ago. (See the professor's web site for details.)
The "vanilla" (i.e., not the ILLUSTRATED) THEORY OF EVERYTHING consists of an introduction, seven lectures, and an index, without *any* illustrations or diagrams. Out of curiosity, I compared a library copy of it with THE ILLUSTRATED BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.
Unless otherwise noted, each of the 7 lectures corresponds to a chapter of the same name in BRIEF HISTORY, in some segments only with slightly different paragraphing and punctuation (and occasionally the kind of spelling errors that creep in when one transcribes audio narration to text, if I may speculate as to the cause).
I don't understand why anyone would prefer the less polished text of THEORY OF EVERYTHING to THE ILLUSTRATED BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, which not only has updates for new areas of research, but has been revised and rearranged to explain things more gently to the layperson.Read more ›
Stephen Hawking's The Theory of Everything is a short book that can act as an introduction to the subjects of cosmology raised by modern science, but the book is only that; I preferred his Brief History of Time to this work because it was longer, more detailed, and covered more ground. If you are looking for a very basic introduction to the current thinking of astrophysicists, this is a good book; if you really want to wrestle with the subject at length, you should buy a Brief History of Time, or one of Paul Davies works, such as About Time. If you are looking for a good lecture series on physics, Richard Feynman's Six Easy Pieces and its sequel, Six Not So Easy Pieces is really the finest of this genre. That being said, the book does a good job in outlining the basic subject matter, discussing the development of the Big Bang theory, and the implications of both the general theory of relativity and quantum physics on the formation of the universe. Hawking is at his best when discussing singularities -- the points of the universe, such as black holes, where the laws of physics break down.
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This is a collection of seven related lectures by Hawking originally published in 1996 under the title, The Cambridge Lectures: Life Works. He does not cover as much ground here as in did in A Brief History of Time, but what he does cover he does so in a charming and engaging style. There are some few statements here that could be interpreted as less than modest--although not by me--and a mistaken prediction or two, which may be a reason that Hawking is not pleased with this book's publication. He might also object to the title, since neither a "Theory of Everything" nor a conclusive answer to the origin and fate of the universe are presented.
However, Hawking does address these questions, and his expression is interesting to read and has the agreeable characteristic of being laconic. There are no equations in the book, no mathematics as such, and everything is explained in language that would be intelligible to a high school student. There are the usual droll Hawking jokes about God and His intentions, facetious, epigram-like understatements (I have done a lot of work on black holes, and it would all be wasted if it turned out that black holes do not exist. p. 66) and witty asides about the convergence of politics on physics, as when he mentions a particle accelerator the size of the Solar System that "would not be funded under current economic conditions."
A good chunk of the book is devoted to black holes (about which Hawking is or was the world's foremost authority) and whether they have "hair" and "sweat" or not. Hawking avers on page 92 that if a primordial black hole is discovered "emitting a lot of gamma and X rays," he will get the Nobel Prize.Read more ›
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Hawking clearly fleshes out his important findings in this book, but it's essentially an abridged version of his earlier A Brief History of Time, and the recent The Universe In A Nutshell. His latest incarnation of singularity physics and grand unifying theory speculation offers no new research from the last three or so years, and virtually everything can be found in either A Brief History of Time or in Universe in a Nutshell. If you're trying to meet a paper deadline, buy this book. Otherwise, read his more detailed and illustrated works for better comprehension
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