- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Bantam; Reprint edition (2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 055338466X
- ISBN-13: 978-0553384666
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 981 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,850 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Grand Design Reprint Edition
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“In this short and sprightly book . . . Hawking and Mlodinow take the reader through a whirlwind tour of fundamental physics and cosmology.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating . . . a wealth of ideas [that] leave us with a clearer understanding of modern physics in all its invigorating complexity.”—Los Angeles Times
“The authors bring to the field an anecdotal clarity that is something of a first for this genre. . . . Making science like this interesting is not all that hard; making it accessible is the real trick.”—Time
“Provocative pop science, an exploration of the latest thinking about the origins of our universe.”—The New York Times
“Introduces the reader to topics at the frontier of theoretical physics . . . more clearly for general readers than I have seen before.”—Steven Weinberg, The New York Review of Books
“Groundbreaking.”—The Washington Post
“A provocative, mind-expanding book.”—The Plain Dealer
About the Author
Stephen Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for thirty years and the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the presidential Medal of Freedom. His books for the general reader include My Brief History, the classic A Brief History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universes, The Universe in a Nutshell, and, with Leonard Mlodinow, A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design. Stephen Hawking died in 2018.
Leonard Mlodinow received his doctorate in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley, and teaches at Caltech. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives, Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, War of the Worldviews: Science versus Spirituality (with Deepak Chopra), Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life, and Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace. He also wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He lives in South Pasadena, California.
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As a professional physicist, I think it is very important to understand the basis for all claims in science, proceed with metaphysical statements only when the scientist is fully cognizant of the limitations of such statements, and to keep in perspective the importance of philosophy in the sciences, as well as its role. It is then no wonder why I hated one of the first statements made in the book, namely, that philosophy is dead and has no role in science. Of course it does! Every act of interpreting data is a philosophical act. The formal act of developing a theory is itself an act of philosophy. The only thing I found more mind-boggling than this statement was that Hawking went on to spend the rest of the book talking about realism and anti-realism, which is a central debate in the philosophy of science. Hawking says nothing new about this debate, and I am not entirely sure what final point he was driving at because, as far as I can tell, the conclusion that would most support his position was undermined by numerous statements he made earlier on. His closing statements about working toward a final theory were undermined by the fact that he says that phenomena may have multiple theories attached to it and that no single theory is more correct than the other; it is simply a matter of which is more useful. This is strictly an anti-realist statement, yet it seems that Hawking believes a final theory is, somehow (although he doesn't state "how" this somehow could be, still possible.
I think that this book can only be the result of one of two things: 1) Apathy toward the topic, in which case I don't know why he wrote or 2) This book repesents the waning and utterly diminished mind of a once brilliant theorist. I would hope it is the former.
My biggest complaint about the book is that Hawking refuses to accept that the world is governed by cause and effect. He cites Feynman's idea of sum over histories, but this is taking a theoretical tool and proposing that this is the way the universe is, in-itself. There has been a huge push in the 20th century toward randomness in physics. I think the reason for this is that physicists are despairing over Hume's problem of "What constitutes a necessary causal connection?" Moreover, physicists are also despairing over a question formally posed in the 19th century "What constitutes a necessary statistical inference?" The lack of progress on these two questions have, in my opinion, induced despair and, consequently, indolence. Rather than try to proceed on the natural assumption of physical science, that all physical phenomena are induced by prior physical phenomena, they are simply saying that there is no cause and effect, only randomness that is loosely governed by laws of physics. This a position that Hawking holds to in his book, which is an ironically philosophical one for someone who thinks that philosophy is dead.
If you decide to read this book, be sure to ask at every turn "Is this statement a testable one?" This will provide you with a test to decide whether a statement is a scientific one or a philosophical one.
The authors seek to answer three philosophical/religious questions, seeming to assert that physicists are the new priests with physics as the new religion, because "philosophy is dead". Their modality is application of the suppositions (unproven ideas) of theoretical physics to arrive at a conclusion that M-theory can prove the universe spontaneously erupted from nothing and if proved "will be a model of the universe that creates itself." If the critics of "psi" accept these authors' example of argument I will lose faith in the critics' objectivity when it comes to their evaluation of theories on paranormal phenomenon.
There is little that is new here. Proposing M-Theory as the basis for describing the origin of the universe is certainly not a new idea. Arguing for M-Theory describing a universe's spontaneous generation from nothing is a new proposal in the world of cosmology--but not for the realm of non-Greek based philosophy. Thousands of years ago the Taoist described the universe as self generated from nothing. It's nice to see cosmology is catching up to thousands-of-years-old philosophy, contrary to the authors' opposing assertion in their opening remarks.
I will grant the book will stir thought and argument, which may be the authors' primary goal, since after 30 years of effort string theory /M-theory is wallowing in a quagmire due to its failure to simplify into the grand design. The authors' assert that the disjointed complexity of the M-theory is as good as it gets, just compromise and don't waste any more time on trying to make it better--it is already The Grand Design. Hmmmmm, what was the basis of that argument again?
I hope the authors will take on the rigor of producing a mathematical model, derived from current work that has some validation from Cosmic Ray Background measurements to demonstrate their conclusions. That will at least, allow others to check their work and bring authenticity to the proposal. Maybe they've done that work and neglected to mention it--one can only hope?
I for one, as a professional physicist and engineer, am not convinced by their arguments and do not see that they answered the three philosophical questions proposed in the first chapter. By the end of reading the second chapter I added a fourth question...should cosmologist attempt to become philosophers?
Welcoming your responses,