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The Universe in a Nutshell

a novel by Stephen Hawking

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Hawking explains physics as well as he knows physics

  • Jul 19, 2003
Rating:
+5
Stephen Hawking is truly an amazing person, one of the most talented physicists of all time and also a very good expository writer. This, his second book written for the general reader, is just as good as his first, "A Brief History of Time." What I found better about this book is that he ventures farther into the leading edge of physics speculation, all the while still holding firm to the current reality of physics.
He starts with a brief explanation of relativity, quantum mechanics and how the two are related. After this, he explores the structure of the universe, how it may have many histories, and the restrictions that must be applied so that the physical laws allow for the creation of habitable planets and minds that can ask these questions.
My favorite chapters were the last four, where he really extrapolates out our current knowledge into some rather interesting areas. Chapter 4 is an explanation of how the loss of information when black holes are formed may limit our ability to predict the future of the universe. Chapter 5 is a discussion as to whether time travel is possible, chapter 6 moves us forward in time, where he explores where humans will be in several centuries. In true Hawking style, he debunks Star Trek as a predictor of the future, although not for the reasons most use. His points are that there will be a growing synergy between humans and electronic components, which is ironic, as his vision of humans in the timeframe of Star TrekĀ© The Next Generation is more physically ( however not socially) consistent with the portrayal of the Borg than rather than the humans.
While the universe is truly complex, the basics can be understood by nearly everyone, provided they are presented in the proper way. Hawking is one who can do that and this book is the existence proof.

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About the reviewer
Charles Ashbacher ()
Ranked #78
Charlie Ashbacher is a compulsive reader and writer about many subjects. His prime areas of expertise are in mathematics and computers where he has taught every course in the mathematics and computer … more
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Wiki


Stephen Hawking, science's first real rock star, may be the least-read bestselling author in history--it's no secret that many people who ownA Brief History of Timehave never finished it. Hawking'sThe Universe in a Nutshellaims to remedy the situation, with a plethora of friendly illustrations to help readers grok some of the most brain-bending ideas ever conceived.

Does it succeed? Yes and no. While Hawking offers genuinely accessible context for such complexities as string theory and the nature of time, it's when he must translate equations to sentences that the limits of language get in the way. But Hawking has simplified the origin of the universe, the nature of space and time, and what holds it all together to an unprecedented degree, inviting nonscientists to share his obvious awe and love of the unseen forces that shape it all.

Yes, it's difficult reading, but it's worth it. Hawking is one of the great geniuses of our time, a man whose life has been devoted to thinking in the abstract about the universe. With his help, and pictures--lots of pictures--we can seek to understand a bit more of the cosmos. --Therese Littleton

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ISBN-10: 055380202X
ISBN-13: 978-0553802023
Author: Stephen William Hawking
Genre: Science
Publisher: Bantam
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