- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Bantam (September 7, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553805371
- ISBN-13: 978-0553805376
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars See all reviews (926 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Grand Design
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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.
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Top customer reviews
He begins this 2010 book, “…people have always asked a multitude of questions: How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? How does the universe behave? What is the nature of reality? Where did all this come from? Did the universe need a creator?... Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge. The purpose of this book is to give the answers that are suggested by recent discoveries and theoretical advances…” (Pg. 5)
He continues, “According to [Richard] Feynman, a system has not just one history but every possible history. As we seek our answers, we will explain Feynman’s approach in detail, and employ it to explore the idea that the universe itself has no single history, nor even an independent existence. That seems like a radical idea… it appears to violate common sense. But common sense is based upon everyday experience, not upon the universe as it is revealed through the marvels of technologies such as those that allow to gaze deep into the atom or back to the early universe.” (Pg. 6-7)
He explains, “we now have a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists, called M-theory. M-theory is the only model that has all the properties we think the final theory ought to have, and it is the theory upon which much of our later discussion is based… According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing. Their creation does not require the intervention of some supernatural being or god. Rather, these multiple universes arise naturally from physical law… Most of these states will be … quite unsuitable for the existence of any form of life. Only a very few would allow creatures like us to exist. Thus our presence selects out from this vast array only those universes that are compatible with our existence. Although we are puny and insignificant on the scale of the cosmos, this makes us in a sense the lords of creation.” (Pg. 8-9)
Later, he states, “we turn to… the approach to quantum theory called alternative histories. In that view, the universe does not have just a single existence or history, but rather every possible version of the universe exists simultaneously in what is called a quantum superposition. That may sound as outrageous as the theory in which the table disappears whenever we leave the room, but in this case the theory has passed every experimental test to which it has ever been subjected.” (Pg. 58-59) Later, he adds, “the universe doesn’t have just a single history, but every possible history, each with its own probability; and our observations of its current state affect its past and determine the different histories of the universe…” (Pg. 83)
He argues, “The realization that time can behave like another direction of space means one can get rid of the problem of time having a beginning… Suppose the beginning of the universe was like the South Pole of the earth… The universe would start as a point at the South Pole, but the South Pole is much like any other point. To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole… when one combines the general theory of relativity with quantum theory, the question of what happened before the beginning of the universe is rendered meaningless.” (Pg. 134-135)
He acknowledges, “There seems to be a vast landscape of possible universes. However… universes in which life like us can exist are rare. We live in one in which life is possible, but if the universe were only slightly different, beings like us could not exist. What are we to make of this fine-tuning? Is it evidence that the universe, after all, was designed by a benevolent creator? Or does science offer another explanation?” (Pg. 144)
He points out, “in 1992 came the first confirmed observation of a planet orbiting a star other than our sun. We now know of hundreds of such planets, and few doubt that there are countless others among the many billions of stars in our universe. That makes the coincidence of our planetary conditions… far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings… Obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, that are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist… the fact of our being restricts the characteristics of the kind of environment in which we find ourselves. That principle is called the weak anthropic principle… A better term … would have been ‘selection principle,’ because the principle refers to how our own knowledge of our existence imposes rules that select, out of all possible environments, only those environments with the characteristics that allow life.” (Pg. 153-154)
He admits, “The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned, and very little in physical law can be altered without destroying the possibility of the development of life as we know it… Our universe and its laws appear to have a design that both is tailor-made to support us and, if we are to exist, leaves little room for alteration. That is not easily explained, and raises the natural question of why it is that way. Many people would like use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God.” (Pg. 161-163)
But he asserts, “That is not the answer of modern science… our universe seems to be one of many, each with different laws. That multiverse idea is not a notion invented to account for the miracle of fine-tuning. It is a consequence of the no-boundary condition as well as many other theories of modern cosmology… the fine-tunings in the laws of nature can be explained by the existence of multiple universes… without the need for a benevolent creator who made the universe for our benefit.” (Pg. 164-165)
He concludes, “Because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing… Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going… M-theory is the unified theory Einstein was hoping to find… If the theory is confirmed by observation, it will be the successful conclusion of a search going back more than 3,000 years. We will have found the grand design.” (Pg. 180-181)
Profoundly thought-provoking---as are all of Hawking’s books---this book will be “must reading” for anyone interested in modern cosmological theories, the “new atheism,” and similar concepts.
While youtubing some topics the author brought up, like the double slit experiment, I quickly found out about new theories other than the "all histories at once" described in the book. I guess quantum physics is moving in a fast pace and I think the reader should be aware that some concepts in the book might be outdated in the near future.
One thing that struck me at the very end of this book was that there were passages listed in the index for page numbers above the number of pages in the book. E.g. antimatter indexed at page 228 in a book 208 pages long. Is the kindle version shortened? I don't remeber reading about antimatter in this book either, other than in the last section with a list of concepts and their brief description.
Like David Pogue, Hawking seems to believe low grade humor is required by the masses, but its actually just condescending or inappropriate; like looking out over the grand canyon for the very first time while being assaulted by knock-knock jokes from the person next to you. The beauty of nature in its pure reality is the best kind of beauty of all. Thats true whether its the beauty of an extremely large erosion gully like the grand canyon, or the beauty of how natures atomic building blocks behave. To always be adding jokes to the perception of it is immature.
Most recent customer reviews
Makes a good case for a God free universe.
Happily supports my prejudice.