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The Grand Design
Format: Hardcover|Change
Price:$17.96+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime

on July 5, 2016
I've had college level physics and chemistry, I watch documentaries on astrophysics, and I recently read the A Short History of Nearly Everything, and this book maxed out my knowledge and abstract thinking. And I admit that abstract thinking is not my strong-suit, I seem to do best with constants and tangible ideas.

There tends to be long paragraphs of very complex material that isn't explained to the greatest potential, and that's after me re-reading some passages multiple times in order to get it.

Also, I don't think it would do a good job of convincing any religious person of forgoing the Genesis version of creation. The points the authors make on how the universe can be explained by what we know about physics alone are usually very good, but comprise a sentence or two at the end of a very long chapter. At that time I get the "Ah Ha!" moment, but since I didn't understand the material well enough, I don't retain the knowledge once I start on the next chapter. Those looking for reasons to brush this book off as science mumbo-jumbo could do so easily.

A positive is that I did get some good insight into the word of quantum physics, and I will be better prepared to understand material like this in the future.

At $14, it's one of the more expensive e-books I've bought and I can't really say it was worth it. Instead, if your interested in an easy-to-read book on things like this, and more, I highly recommend reading the book I mentioned above:
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If you want to read a science book that has a lot of humor in it, this is a good choice. I feel Stephen Hawking made complex concepts understandable and he also has a knack for explaining history in an interesting way. If you are looking for a book that explains a lot of concepts secular scientists believe, this will interest you. The debate between creationists and secular scientists becomes more clear when you look at both sides of the story. What also makes this book really cute is the use of Sidney Harris' funny cartoons throughout.

This book reminded me of a time when I was first enjoying learning about science in the 1900s and my dad explained how light was a particle and a wave. My dad being a bit of a scientist and inventor was helpful when I had to do projects for science class. So some of this book was a trip down memory lane.

What I guess I disagree with is that God was not necessary for creation and that philosophy is dead. I think philosophy is very much alive, why else do people start threads at forums discussing what happens after death? I think the question of "Why are we here?" resonates with almost anyone.

I did however think that Stephen Hawking is right when he presents his insight into why the world is such a mess. When he is also talking about God possibly creating the universe - I think he is nearer to the truth.

But needless to say I enjoyed reading this book and found it entertaining and educational. Just be prepared for words like "geodesics." There is fortunately a glossary in this book. If you read it on the kindle of course, you can have all sorts of fun looking up words.

~The Rebecca Review
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on January 10, 2015
Much like chemistry, the world of physics continues to leave me feeling like I've been dropped on my head a few times too many. I was hoping for a more simplified delivery of complex subject matter similar to what authors such as Richard Dawkins have done for biology. Unfortunately, while I have no doubt in my mind Hawking is a brilliant man, I am by no means brilliant enough to come through this work retaining even the milk skin surface of what he's talking about. Every here and there information is presented that makes me consider the universe in different ways than I have in the past, but soon after the migraines start up and I need to wash the concepts away with Maker's Mark before they leave me in a raging zombified state unfit for modern world functioning.
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on October 29, 2013
This is a review by a layman grappling with the not so self-evident laws of the incredibly small and large physical realities.

I read and very much enjoyed Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time and The Universe in a Nutshell although have not come across any of L. Mlodinow's several popular books on physics and quantum physics.

This book is very different from the previous two Hawking books and several other readings on cosmology, all of which attempt to familiarize the lay audience with the intricate principles of modern physics, i.e. the theory of general relativity (GR), quantum mechanics (QM), various flavors of string theory complete with M-theory, and multiverses. Here, most of this knowledge is taken for granted at least on an elementary level. The authors focus instead on the philosophical aspects of the immense new knowledge that has been gained since Maxwell's formalization of electro-magnetism and Einstein's concept of space-time fabric. Ancient philosophers, legends of various religious worldviews, and respectful dispute with creationist beliefs make their appearances throughout the engaging narration. On the way to the "theory of everything," that in the writers' opinion seems to be the hard-to-swallow concept of M-theory with its 10 spatial dimensions, we meet a few modern principles of acquiring knowledge. One of them is the "top down approach" which makes conclusions about the past based on the present using probability calculations instead of describing universal history as a linear event with a fixed beginning and predetermined outcome. Another is the "anthropic principle" which uses the very existence of humans as an argument in the interpretation of the Universe.

The story we are presented with is an unapologetic utilization of the still poorly understood and even less readily imaginable principles of quantum mechanics. According to this worldview, our very existence is due to nothing else but quantum fluctuation in the primordial Universe, when its size was in the range of the Planck length (length of 10 to the negative 35 meters). In the randomness of temperature variations of multiple (10 to the 500!?) imaginable early universes one had just the right conditions, i.e. temperature differences, to be able to form clumps of material, the birthplace of present day galaxies, following the inflation. In fact the small but well documented temperature variation in the cosmic microwave background radiation is thought to be the thumbprint of this primordial quantum fluctuation.

It seems to me that by the time galaxies formed, the laws of GR that apparently govern today's cosmos on a grand scale, overshadowed the principles of QM that dominated the "baby" Universe. Although this "changing of the guards" of the physical laws from QM to GR clearly had to be a continuum, until today even the smartest minds among us have not been able to find a theory that can describe a smooth transition between the two. QM and GR simply do not seem to coexist very well together: using QM laws, the GR equations invariably result in infinite results, the mathematical equivalence of "garbage." The book however ends on a positive note: M-theory.

Although M-theory itself, like all other major concepts of physics in this fairly short book, is only briefly presented, the authors leave little doubt about their current conviction that the theory is a major candidate for Einstein's unfulfilled dream, the unified theory. To illustrate what the real meaning of a "unified theory" may be, the authors discuss the Game of Life in full seven pages. The essence of the game is to build various structures based on three simple basic laws. These structures - one may look at them as multiverses - will evolve very differently despite the uniformity of the three rules depending on the initial conditions, i.e. how one places the two building blocks (life or death) on the checkered board at the beginning of the game. In the process, various formations are produced that seem to follow certain rules (think of the laws of thermodynamics, Newton's three laws of motion, etc.) while the underlying three basic rules never change.

Of course, M-theory is not without controversies due to the mathematical complexities required to model it and the extremely small size of strings that are thought to be the theory's building blocks. In fact, the energy necessary to dissect matter to the infinitesimal size of strings and thus make them observable seems to be unattainable. Viewed in this way, the difference between a supernatural creator (God) and M-theory seems to be almost negligible at first glimpse. Although the authors don't explicitly get tangled in the emotional battle between spirituality and materialism, they provide sufficient circumstantial evidence in the form of reproducible observational data to make a strong intellectual argument that God is not necessary to answer mankind's ever recurring questions: `Why do we exist? Why is there something rather than nothing?' and the one question for which you have to be a physicist to ask: "Why this particular set of laws and not some other?"

The book is a well-narrated, mostly enjoyable read even for a lay person like myself - someone not involved in the field of physics in any way. I think however that without a basic understanding of GR and QM much of the book's main premises will fly over a potential reader's head. The two books by Hawking mentioned at the beginning of this review will certainly be sufficient to appreciate the magical world revealed in The Grand Design: the world of theoretical physics and cosmology hidden from most of us who grew up on Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics.

There were only very few places where I felt a touch of too much technicality - e.g. "renormalization" -, or not sufficient clarity - e.g. brief references to "super symmetry", or the Feynman diagrams. Many of the pictures were intuitive and helpful, although I wish a few of them had more detailed captions - e.g. the figure of Quarks or the Triple Alpha Process. The cartoons were sufficiently witty to contribute to the overall entertaining mood of the book.

I would recommend the book to all those interested in cosmology and particle physics, but most of all to those tickled by a natural scientific approach to life's great philosophical questions and the unquenchable thirst of humans to acquire knowledge.
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on July 26, 2017
As usual, Hawking makes theoretical physics accessible to the non physicist (and at times tries too hard to do so with juvenile humor and analogies). That said this book's simple argument - that everything that could happen has happened already ie the multi verse - and that we only perceive one scenario - while fascinating, is not as compellingly and convincing argued as one would like. Given It runs against Occam's Razor (and the elegant mathematical formulas of Einstein and Newton for instance), I would have hoped for a more intellectually robust argument than he presents (ie Bucky ball - seriously?!)
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on February 20, 2018
I read it twice. The fact that I did so is testament to its hugely interesting content, as well as to its readability. I have read several books touching on many of the same topics; i.e. cosmology, time, relativity, quantum physics, but none that have pulled things together so neatly and understandably as this great book. Anyone who is at all curious as to why things are as they are should read this book...twice.
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on March 23, 2012
If anything clearly defines this books quality it is Buckyball soccer. Stephen comes up with an incredibly simple illustration of a very complex quantum law which is completely understandable to one with no detailed knowledge of Quantum theory and he maintains this standard throughout the book. I admit to a little bias since I have known Stephen for 60 years, but I bought the book because after reading a Brief History of Time, I knew I had found someone who could explain the most worrying aspects of creation in an undestandable way to me. This book takes up where Universe in a Nutshell was proceeding but tackles the more theoretical aspects of Quantum Theory and the origins of the Universe. Whilst I know Stephen is sceptical about God, because a belief in miracles would posit an exception to scientific laws, I still believe that Stephen was created by God to imbue us with answers to questions no other person on earth could answer.
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on May 8, 2017
The book starts with the very first cosmologic laws of Greek philosophers, Copernic And Newton, goes to quantic mechanics and finishes with de m-theory. Of course is not possible to explain everything in detail. To whom have no idea of what is it about, the book is still the best for starting. But one will have to consult other sources while reading (I would recommend excellent internet videos and text). For those who knows the subject from other sources, it is a very comprehensive overview.
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on January 31, 2018
Very interesting.
Explained difficult subjects of physics very kindly, but the illustrations in the kindle edtion are not so satisfactory.
For me anthropic princple in chapter 7 is very excellent and detailed, surely our existence is the miracle of miracles.
The title of the last chapter ‘ Grand Design” was rather misleading (for me). I anticipated the “Design” of the universe by the Super Natural Being
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on August 24, 2017
An interesting and stimulating read. It was not always the easiest of books but if one sticks with Hawking the result is a better understanding​ of the Cosmos in which we live.
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