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A Brief History of Time Paperback – Unabridged, September 1, 1998
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“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)
“Masterful.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Charming and lucid . . . [A book of] sunny brilliance.”—The New Yorker
“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
From the Inside Flap
Now a decade later, this edition updates the chapters throughout to document those advances, and also includes an entirely new chapter on Wormholes and Time Travel and a new introduction. It make vividly clear why "A Brief History of Time has transformed our view of the universe.
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I have read the first edition when I was a high school student around 1990, and this book is the revised version (revised in 1998). Compared to the first version, there are little changes. But there is one noticeable change in his point of view on the ultimate theory. According to him, recent findings on "dualities" seem to indicate that it would not be able to express an ultimate theory in a single fundamental formation. Instead, we may have to apply different theories to different situations, but in the areas which they overlap, they must coincide.
The book has a lot of merits. Firstly, non-native English users including myself would feel comfortable and find it easy to read. He doesn't use difficult words and his writing style is clear. In the sense, he is better than other English scientific authors like R. Penrose, J. Gleick and I. Stewart. Secondly, the level of the book is well-chosen for general readers and the total page number is just less than 200 pages. If they read the book, at least, they would be able to learn more about how the universe began, how the stars have been formed, and how we have come here as the result of the evolution of the universe. More than that, the book contains interesting stories of some Nobel Prize winners in physics with their results related to the mentioned fundamental questions. This will help readers understand the 20th century's progress in physics.
Thirdly, among the physicists who have contributed in searching an ultimate theory, the author himself is distinguished. He showed that a black hole radiates light, so we can say that a black hole is not completely black. Up to the time he presented this theory, everyone believed that a black hole can only absorb everything around it, but radiates nothing. To find the ultimate theory, we have to consolidate general relativity and quantum mechanics, but the two theories are inconsistent in many cases. But Hawking skillfully applied both of them to black holes, and obtained the result. The physicist, L. Smolin regards his finding as a starting point toward the ultimate theory. That we can read a book where Hawking himself explains about his theory for general readers is thrilling.
As I mentioned above, this is my second reading of the book. When I first read the book as a high school student, it was impressive for him to explain that at the beginning of the universe, there was a singularity where the energy density is infinite, and so the law of physics including general relativity, cannot hold. But at the second reading, I found out that what Hawking really wanted to say was not that we cannot know the beginning of the universe, but that we need another theory that can explain the beginning by considering both general relativity and quantum mechanics. Actually, in the book, he introduces his "no boundary" theory which explains it without the singularity. But this theory has been neither verified nor disproved by experiments until now.
Here is my advice for a reader. Don't think that you have to understand every word and sentence. Less than 200 pages, the book contains a lot of things and the author does his best in explaining them easily. For example, its explanation about the history from the beginning of the universe to the first living things on earth is outstanding. And about time travel, its arguments are ever clear and reasonable for me. But, in a few parts, the explanations are just sketchy, so if a reader is not already an expert, he could not fully understand them. When you meet such parts, just move forward. The most important thing is to learn some things and enjoy the reading.
This time around, my son and I read a chapter a day and discussed it, first with each other then including my husband, the resident Big Brain. Talk about rewarding! My experience with reading this book with my son has been so positive that we are looking forward to reading the Feynman Lectures together, this time with my husband, this fall. Who knows, I might become an accidental physicist. LOL
Relativity and quantum mechanics are not easy subjects, but this book is as good as it gets for those who want to learn a bit about them without becoming an expert.
Top international reviews
Stephen Hawking takes us on a journey from the time when the world believed that Earth was the center of the universe and supported on the back of a giant tortoise to our age when we know better. Without the use of any mathematical equation, except the one famous mass energy equivalence relation by Einstein, he has explained the nature of our universe, from the smallest particles which cannot be seen to the biggest entities, the black holes in a simple language.
The manner in which Hawking broke down complex concepts in theoretical physics, along with his adept use of humor, he clearly won over the readers who otherwise might have found themselves intimidated by physics and maths.
I recommend it to all people who are interested in physics and cosmology but hate equations. 😄
Perhaps part of A Brief History Of Time’s remarkable success lies in a nostalgic reaction. People used to live in houses with one big room. Go to Anne Hathaway’s house in Stratford and you’ll see how a sixteenth century hall was split into the rooms of later centuries. Perhaps, in a figurative sense, we look into a tiny room in the attic - where the physicist has a study - and yearn to return to that big hall where everyone is in it together.
So how did Stephen Hawking do? I have to admit to reading general books on physics that I have found much easier and more compelling - Superforce for example, by Paul Davies, an accomplished physicist in his own right. This is a book I read back in the 1980s after failing, on that occasion, to get to the end of A Brief History. But Stephen Hawking was one of the most famous physicists of modern times, isolated both by his esoteric field of expertise and his illness. Looking into the study of such a man increases the frisson.
Overall I would say I caught the gist of at least some of A Brief History, without feeling I gained a deep knowledge of anything. Maybe that is an inevitable part of what us general readers might call the Dilettante Principle, our equivalent of the Uncertainty Principle. You can either know a little about a lot, or a lot about a little, but not both.
I think if I’m honest I was more interested in the book not so much for what was in it - which I often had a tough time following - but for what it represents about the times we live in, where people know more and more about smaller and smaller areas. A lot of good books are like that. They catch a moment.
True, if one is to fully understand the complexities of this treatise, we will have to frequently stop and ponder but the effort is worth it for the enlightenment it brings.
The only complaint is that the diagrams have not converted well into Kindle.
Stephen Hawking obviously had a good sense of humour, judging by the way he expresses some things.
He must have been a very kind person, as he assures readers that there is nothing to worry about when he tells of things that some may consider alarming.
Though some of the information in the back is now outdated and has been disproven, it still gives you a fantastic basis for understanding things such as relativity, anti-matter and event horizons. He goes right from tiny quarks all the way up to the entire make-up of the universe. I did not think that Stephen Hawking was the type to be funny, but I actually laughed aloud a few times, so interesting and readable and he really uses some fantastic analogies that anyone can relate to.
I suppose if you are a PhD level physicist then you will probably not find this book particularly informative, but for me it really reignited my interest in the sciences and it is honestly one of the best books I have read.
..it's brilliantly clear. Hawking takes us through relativity, the big bang and black holes and quantum particles. And all along he manages to explain these ideas in language and with references that most of us can get opur heads around. Don't get me wrong spin 2 particles symetry makes no sense to me and I am really struggling with the concpet of a finite (but really really really big) curved edgeless space. Nonetheless, concepts which demand years of research to come close to fully understanding are introduced in a fashion that any novice can follow. Hawking's writing style is engaging and often humorous (sometimes cheeky) and it makes it a pleasure to read.
There are a few downsides to this book. Firstly, an introduction to a subject is always going to be sketchy on some of the detail but as not many people will have an appetite to read his full research papers I don't think that's much of an issue. Secondly, and more significantly, this book is now over 25 years old. That means that the science has moved on (in some areas considerably). At the time of writing Hawking could not be 100% certain that blackholes existed although we now know that they do. I'm sure there are other areas where his writing is now outdated but I don't know enough about physics to be sure what.
Overall then a great book. It combines a relaxed and enjoyable writing style with some humour and a thorough udnerstanding of the subject matter explained in as straightforward a manner as possible. If you are interested in this then I would also recommend: Why Does E=mc2?: (and Why Should We Care?) and also Hawking's recent TV series Stephen Hawking's Universe [DVD] [2010 ]
The Grate Stephen Hawkings is the write which makes the book more legendary.
Grate to read the language is not much difficult to understand .
Nearly All my Dough of the space science has been cleared by this book.