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A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?
Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and “arrows of time,” of the big bang and a bigger God—where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.
“[Hawking] can explain the complexities of cosmological physics with an engaging combination of clarity and wit. . . . His is a brain of extraordinary power.”—The New York Review of Books
“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
“A Brief History of Time, published in 1988, was a landmark volume in science writing and in world-wide acclaim and popularity, with more than 9 million copies in print globally. The original edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the ensuing years have seen extraordinary advances in the technology of observing both the micro- and the macrocosmic world–observations that have confirmed many of Hawking’s theoretical predictions in the first edition of his book.
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.
Top customer reviews
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking is about modern physics for general readers. Its aim is not just listing some topics, but introducing modern physics by examining current scientific answers, although not complete, to fundamental questions like: Where did we come from? Why is the universe the way it is? Was there the beginning of time? Is there an ultimate theory that can explain everything? We don’t have such a theory yet.
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.
I read this book with my oldest son (13 almost 14 years old) and enjoyed it even more than when I first read it in the 90s. Stephen Hawking is a brilliant writer. His knowledge of his field (theoretical physics) is vast, deep, and emotional. His ability to distill complex ideas into accessable analogies rivals Richard Rhodes (who brilliantly describes Mad Cow Disease in Deadly Feasts and the atom bomb in Atomic Bomb), whom I consider to be the best in class for this ability. I had no appreciation for Dr. Hawkings’ skill when I first read this book – probably because I skimmed it. 🙂
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