A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time

In the ten years since its publication in 1988, Stephen Hawking's classic work has become a landmark volume in scientific writing, with more than nine million copies in forty languages sold worldwide. That edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the intervening years have seen extraordinary advances in the te...

Title:A Brief History of Time
Author:
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ISBN:0553380168
Edition Language:English
Number of Pages:212 pages

A Brief History of Time Reviews

  • Daniel

    It is not clear to me who is in the target audience for this book. At times it tries to explain basic concepts of modern physics in simple language, and at other times it assumes a familiarity with the same subject. For the first time I think I "understand" why absolute time is not consistent with relativity theory or that space-time curvature supplants the notion of gravity, and for that I thank the author. There are a few other things I believe I have a glimpse of having (finally) slogged thro

    It is not clear to me who is in the target audience for this book. At times it tries to explain basic concepts of modern physics in simple language, and at other times it assumes a familiarity with the same subject. For the first time I think I "understand" why absolute time is not consistent with relativity theory or that space-time curvature supplants the notion of gravity, and for that I thank the author. There are a few other things I believe I have a glimpse of having (finally) slogged through the book.

    On the other hand, there are many places where he writes as if it were clear what he is talking about even though it would require a good deal of background knowledge. To give but one example, he starts talking about summing up over possible world histories (I cannot locate the quotation) without explaining what that would mean. Trained in statistics, I have some idea that he is talking about mathematical expectation in the context of quantum mechanics, but I don't know how another reader might make any sense of it (and I certainly don't have more than a vague notion).

    There are irritating writing practices that could have used some editing, e.g., the use of the naked pronominal adjective "this" when in the middle of a dense explanation of an abstruse concept(e.g., "This had serious implications for the ultimate fate of massive stars.").

    My biggest complaints, however, are about his philosophical opinions. Obviously he is entitled to think as he wishes about the ultimate questions, but his assertion that his hypothesis of a finite world without beginning or end would leave no place for God seems beside the point. The classic divide has not changed: some folks look around and say stuff just is, and other folks say there's a power behind the stuff that has at least as much going for it as we do. That argument hasn't changed with his theories. At one point in the book he claims that the late John Paul II told gathered scientists that they mustn't inquire into the Big Bang because that was God's territory. I would wager with anyone reading this comment that such an assertion is just plain false. JPII was a flawed mortal, to be sure, but he was no dope; it certainly sounds to me like someone hearing what he thinks the pope would say. (And the Galileo jokes are pretty dumb -- does anyone think that JPII, who apologized for the embarrassing Galileo fiasco, would go after this guy? It must be all that influence the Vatican has had in Britain over the last 400 years that has him scared.)

    Other philosophical complaints involve his use of entropy (he defines it first within closed systems and then uses it to explain why the "thermodynamic arrow of time" and the "personal arrow of time" must run in the same direction -- leaping from a box of molecules to the entire universe!), his droning on about what black holes are like when he doesn't know for sure they exist, his statements about "random" and being 95% certain a theory is true (does that mean about 95 out of 100 theories like that are true??). His opinions may be very rich, deep, though-provoking, but how would I (or most general readers) know? You can't really evaluate a judgment unless you know something in the field.

    And so that is why I ultimately cannot recommend this book: if you know physics inside and out, you might find his opinions interesting. If you don't, you can only walk around parroting what he says about black holes as if you had a clue what you were talking about. What we all really need is a remedial course in physics!

  • Bill

    This book puts me in mind of the story about how a Harvard number theorist, through some malfunction of the scheduling computer, got assigned to teach an introductory course in pre-calculus. Being one of those individuals to whom math came so easily that they couldn't grasp how difficult others found it, the professor had no idea what to cover in such a course.

    So, he went to the chair of the department, who told him: "You'll want to start with the real number-line and then progress to inequalit

    This book puts me in mind of the story about how a Harvard number theorist, through some malfunction of the scheduling computer, got assigned to teach an introductory course in pre-calculus. Being one of those individuals to whom math came so easily that they couldn't grasp how difficult others found it, the professor had no idea what to cover in such a course.

    So, he went to the chair of the department, who told him: "You'll want to start with the real number-line and then progress to inequalities; from there, move on to quadratic equations, then trigonometry and the wrapping function, Cartesian and polar coordinate systems, and, if time permits, conic sections."

    The professor thanked the chairperson and went off to meet with his first class. Next week, he was back.

    "What should I teach them now?" he said.

    is like that -- Professor Hawking doesn't seem to notice when his treatment progresses from the obvious to the arcane, ending with his concept of "imaginary time" (very nearly incomprehensible in this overly brief presentation).

    Fun nonetheless.

  • Laurel

    If I had a slightly more evolved brain or were as brilliantly smart as, say, Stephen Hawking, I might give this book 4 or 5 stars. I'm pretty certain it deserves 4 or 5 stars. But my brain is only (I like to think) a bit above average. And so, yes, I admit it -- much of this (especially when delving into his own theories) was over my head. And while I found what I did understand absolutely fascinating, I can't really give it more than 3 stars because doing so would imply I really "got it."

    I actu

    If I had a slightly more evolved brain or were as brilliantly smart as, say, Stephen Hawking, I might give this book 4 or 5 stars. I'm pretty certain it deserves 4 or 5 stars. But my brain is only (I like to think) a bit above average. And so, yes, I admit it -- much of this (especially when delving into his own theories) was over my head. And while I found what I did understand absolutely fascinating, I can't really give it more than 3 stars because doing so would imply I really "got it."

    I actually love quantum physics. I find that learning about how the universe works is just about the most intriguing thing in the... well, in the universe. :) The problem is that I am quite mathematically challenged. As soon as someone starts talking equations, my brain shuts down.

    I like to think that I would have been better able to follow this book if I'd read the print version. I am very visual when it comes to learning. With the print version, I would be able to read sentences that were hard to absorb multiple times, until they made more sense to me. However, with the audio version, whenever Hawking lost me, I tended to just tune out.

    Definitely worth the read, though. It's fascinating just to enter the mind of one so brilliant.

  • Huda Yahya

    ‎‏‏

    ‏ إن لم تكن قد قرأت كتاباً علمياً من قبل ،أو على الأقل تابعت بعض الدوريات و المواقع العلمية ، ‏فلا أنصحك بهذاالكتاب كبداية

    فسوف تجده مملاً قليلاً ،وستجد نفسك غارقاً في المصطلحات التي ستشتّت ‏انتباهك،وتعيقك عن الإستمتاع به

    وهذا الكتاب يحتاج للقراءة لكثيرٍ من المرّات كي تتشبع بمعلوماته ،و يحتاج لكثير من القراءات الخارجية كذلك

    الكتاب معلوماته قيمة وشيقة لواحدٍ من أهم العلماء ‏الذين أنجبتهم الأرض

    ولا يزال علم الفلك متعة عظيمة ،، ‏

    وتحليقنا بين المجرّات محفّز عظيم للخيال

  • Ahmad  Ebaid

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