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A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes Paperback – May 1, 1990

4.4 out of 5 stars 1,589 customer reviews

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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

From the Inside Flap

Stephen Hawking has earned a reputation as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein. In this landmark volume, Professor Hawking shares his blazing intellect with nonscientists everywhere, guiding us expertly to confront the supreme questions of the nature of time and the universe. Was there a beginning of time? Will there be an end? Is the universe infinite or does it have boundaries? From Galileo and Newton to modern astrophysics, from the breathtakingly cast to the extraordinarily tiny, Professor Hawking leads us on an exhilarating journey to distant galaxies, black holes, alternate dimensions--as close as man has ever ventured to the mind of God. From the vantage point of the wheelchair from which he has spent more than twenty years trapped by Lou Gehrig's disease, Stephen Hawking has transformed our view of the universe. Cogently explained, passionately revealed, A Brief History of Time is the story of the ultimate quest for knowledge: the ongoing search for the tantalizing secrets at the heart of time and space.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (June 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553346148
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553346145
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.8 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,589 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,233 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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