Title: The Illustrated A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell
Author: Stephen Hawking
Date Added: June 25, 2016
Date Started: January 2, 2017
Date Finished: April 9, 2017
Reading Duration: 97 days
Genre: Science, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics
One of the most influential thinkers of our time, Stephen Hawking is an intellectual icon, known not only for the adventurousness of his ideas but for the clarity and wit with which he expresses them. In this new book Hawking takes us to the cutting edge of theoretical physics, where truth is often stranger than fiction, to explain in laymen’s terms the principles that control our universe. Like many in the community of theoretical physicists, Professor Hawking is seeking to uncover the grail of science – the elusive Theory of Everything that lies at the heart of the cosmos. In his accessible and often playful style, he guides us on his search to uncover the secrets of the universe – from supergravity to supersymmetry, from quantum theory to M-theory, from holography to duality. He takes us to the wild frontiers of science, where superstring theory and p-branes may hold the final clue to the puzzle. And he lets us behind the scenes of one of his most exciting intellectual adventures as he seeks “to combine Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and Richard Feynman’s idea of multiple histories into one complete unified theory that will describe everything that happens in the universe.” With characteristic exuberance, Professor Hawking invites us to be fellow travelers on this extraordinary voyage through space-time. Copious four-color illustrations help clarify this journey into a surreal wonderland where particles, sheets, and strings move in eleven dimensions; where black holes evaporate and disappear, taking their secret with them; and where the original cosmic seed from which our own universe sprang was a tiny nut. The Universe in a Nutshell is essential reading for all of us who want to understand the universe in which we live. Like its companion volume, A Brief History of Time, it conveys the excitement felt within the scientific community as the secrets of the cosmos reveal themselves.
Professor Hawking has managed to take something supremely difficult to understand, the nature of the universe and in fact our very being, and explained it in the simplest terms possible. Sadly, the simplest terms possible are still wildly complicated, and I spent a good portion of this book rereading and rereading again in attempt to wrap my head around the concepts. I can say that I understood 70% on a good day and 30% on a bad. I am still woefully clueless on string theory and can probably only consider 20% of that to my credit, but the internet exists for a reason, and I’m certain I’ll find myself looking it up again one day.
This is not a volume that can be read casually. It is not a book that’s picked up before repose as a bedtime browser. Brief History should be treated more like a textbook, and this is not a slight on its part. Professor Hawking is attempting to teach laypeople/non-scientists about highly complex scientific concepts, many of which even those in that community do not fully understand.
It is possible that some of the more complex ideas could’ve been explained a little more clearly. Because Mr. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and because he’s taught physics for many, many years, I believe his writing reflects the attitude that readers will have more than rudimentary knowledge of what he’s trying to explain. Instead of being Physics 101, A Brief History of Time may be more in the neighborhood of Physics 102. This could also just be my own personal failing to adequately grasp it, and other readers unfamiliar with theoretical physics may have no problem at all.
The book did serve to dissuade me from pursuing serious studies of astrophysics, as I was considering that at some point, I do not say this with remorse or in an attempt to seek sympathy. I’m actually happy I was able to come to this conclusion, as I can spend my time in more fruitful endeavors. I’ve been thinking about studying law, which is a far more mundane matter in comparison to the universe. Briefly, I chosen micro concerns (which are no less important) as opposed to macro. I will most definitely continue to read about/study astrophysics on a more casual level, since postulating where the universe comes from and how it operates is paramount to understanding ourselves.