The Universe in a Nutshell

by S. W. Hawking

Hardcover, 2001

Status

Available

Publication

New York : Bantam Books, c2001.

Description

Like many in the community of theoretical physicists, Professor Hawking is after the Grail of science, the theory of everything that lies at the heart of the cosmos. He involves us in the attempts at uncovering its secrets, from supergravity to supersymmetry, from quantum theory to M-theory, from holography to duality, and now, at the very frontiers of science, superstring theory and p-branes. He shares his eagerness to "combine Einstein's general theory of relativity and Richard Feynman's idea of multiple histories into a complete unified theory that will describe everything that happens in the universe." With characteristic exuberance, Hawking invites us to be fellow travelers on this extraordinary voyage through spacetime.

Media reviews

NBD / Biblion
De auteur is de beroemde, aan een rolstoel gekluisterde fysicus, die veel moeite doet de moeilijke fysische theorieen die oorsprong en evolutie van het heelal proberen te verklaren, voor de leek begrijpelijk te maken. Eerst in "Het Heelal" (1988), nu in dit boek. Het is een bijzonder fraai boek met heel veel prachtige kleurenillustraties die trachten een voorstelling te geven van de moeilijke principes van de quantummechanica, de relativiteitstheorie, zwaartekracht, zwarte gaten, kromming van ruimte en tijd etc. Hawkings nieuwe inzichten van de afgelopen jaren zijn erin verwerkt. Zelf veronderstelt hij dat dit nieuwe boek wat eenvoudiger te begrijpen is, maar het komt toch het meest tot zijn recht als de lezer al wel wat vertrouwd is met deze materie. In dat geval is het een zeer lezenswaardig boek dat een goed beeld geeft van waar men in deze tak van wetenschap mee bezig is. Ook Hawkings ideeen over de toekomst van de menselijke intelligentie komen aan bod. Verklarende woordenlijst, register. Voor de beta-geinteresseerden met minstens een vwo-opleiding. Zie ook www.hawking.org.uk. Dr. E. Zwijnenberg

User reviews

LibraryThing member riofriotex
This audiobook wasn’t as good as "A Briefer History of Time," because I preferred the reader of the latter (Eric Davies has a wonderful voice, and Simon Prebble is a Brit), and because this audiobook did not even have the “enhancement” of a PDF of pictures from the book that you can view on your computer as the latter did. As I stated in my review of "Briefer History...", even that “enhancement” isn’t particularly useful, since you can’t look at the pictures on the CD while listening to the book in your car, and because I felt videos rather than static illustrations to depict the principles would be more useful.

Hawking seems to cover the same topics as are covered in the other book, just in a different order. It did seem as though the material was clearer this time, but whether that was due to the organization of the book or to the fact that maybe some of the information is finally sinking in on a second listen, I’m not sure. There are a few concepts I think I really understand now (for example, the Doppler effect, although that could have been demonstrated very effectively with an audio/video clip of a passing train). Once again, I had to check out the book to clarify some concepts with the illustrations.

On the plus side, Hawking is humorous and drolly dry at times, especially with his references to Star Trek (and his appearances playing poker with Data, Einstein, and Newton on "The Next Generation") and quotes from Shakespeare. However, I think two trials of Hawking in audiobook are plenty, and I won’t be buying or listening to any more.
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LibraryThing member Pompeia
I read Stephen Hawking's previous book, A Brief History of Time when I was about 16 years old. That book was great and pretty easy to understand even though I didn't know much about physics back then.

Now, ten years later, having spent five of those years studying physics at university level, I can't find much enjoyment in this book. Admittedly, it could be a question of my taste changing while growing up - but I still enjoy A Brief History of Time.

Although there were many new tidbits for me (I'm by no means an astrophysicist) and I enjoyed reading the book, the sense of wonder was not there. The "plot" of the book was hard to follow since the book wasn't as well structured as ABHoT. Also, I have a feeling that if I had read this book back when I was 16, I might not have understood very much of it, so I'm not sure that this book is as suitable to someone who has never studied physics.

All in all, a good book if you enjoy physics without the equations every once in a while, but not something I would recommend as a must read for a beginner.
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LibraryThing member dwarfplanet9
I read this book while in rehab, during my recover from total paralysis caused by Guillain-Barré Syndrome. I could not turn the pages myself, so I made a pest of myself by calling out to whatever staff member was walking by my hospital room. On night, I called Shirley, who worked mostly in the kitchen, as she walked by my room. Before she got to my bedside, I managed to turn the page by myself. We both were amazed and happy! This was a big milestone in my recovery, and I will never forget it. I finished the book pretty quickly after that.… (more)
LibraryThing member Atamimi
This book gets too much out of reality. Nice pictures. Nothing new, and by that I mean all of the Physics is now about one topic(Boring).
LibraryThing member tedrick
FUNNY INTERESTING AND TOTALLY ABSORBING I DONT AGREE WITH ALL HE HE SAYS BUT THEN I AM A CHRISTIAN HE IS NOT
LibraryThing member carterchristian1
When Amazon has over 150 glowing reviews of a book it says something. This is clearly the book I need to help with History of Physics, but have it tucked away in Box 5 in the basement. Must retrieve it soon as I plan to advance my science education, so neglected in high school and college.
LibraryThing member fpagan
The quest for a quantum gravity theory, etc. Lots of color illustrations.
LibraryThing member jaimelesmaths
With humor and pretty pictures, Stephen Hawking describes the current theories about the universe as we know it. Definitely more approachable if you have some mathematics or physics background, but appreciable by a layperson as well.
LibraryThing member bragan
I was kind of unimpressed by Hawking's latest book, The Grand Design (co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow), which I read a few months ago. But it did remind me that I still had this book sitting on my To-Read Pile, getting more and more out of date by the minute, so I figured I'd better pick it up and give it a shot.

In a way, this one gave me some of what I'd been hoping for from The Grand Design, as it touches a little more on topics such as M-theory, which I am very, very fuzzy on and quite interested in learning more about, instead of concentrating mainly on the basic concepts of modern physics. So I found parts of it interesting and reasonably rewarding. On the other hand, I do think I can make some of the same complaints about it as I did about The Grand Design, namely that it's often rather too abstruse and lacking in explanatory background to make sense to the complete layman, but also frequently lacks the technical detail that might help make it more understandable to, say, someone with a decent but slightly rusty undergraduate-level background in physics and astrophysics like yours truly. Admittedly, this is a problem any popularizer is going to run into when dealing with a field like this in which it's essentially impossible to grasp certain ideas without an understanding of advanced mathematics, but I know I've seen other writers do it somewhat better.

At least the illustrations make the book very attractive, and, unlike those in The Grand Design, they tend to actually be relevant and sometimes even useful, if also a little distracting.
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LibraryThing member BakuDreamer
Would have been great to have when I was 11 ~
LibraryThing member justindtapp
I read this book followed by The Grand Design back-to-back. Years ago, I read Hawking's Black Holes and Baby Universes, and it appears Hawking has changed his position on various things related to black holes and the Grand Unifying Theory since the 1980s, although he does not list them. How much of Hawkings remarks black holes does Hawking admit to be wrong on now? For that, I need to read Susskind's The Black Hole Wars. I have also read two of Brian Greene's works and was eager to compare. I found this book to be more accessible than Greene's works. Hawking's attempts at analogies describing time and space are brief and easier than Greene's drawn-out illustrations. Many of the negative reviews criticize the lack of depth, there are plenty of other works out there to choose from.

The reason the sky is dark at night is because not all of the light from the stars in the galaxy have reached us. This tells us that the universe must have been created at some finite point some time ago. Hawking details his own contributions to showing that the Big Bang happened. He discusses how it does no good to talk about what happened before time, which would require imaginary time. But Hawking believes scientists have a duty to investigate what happened before the Big Bang and what caused it. He has no patience for people like Carl Sagan who just weren't interested. Hawking explains Richard Feynman's concept of multiple histories. The concept of multiple histories still doesn't explain the cause of the big bang. While the crude form of the anthropic principle says the universe exists the way it is because we are here to see it, we can merge the principle with that of Feynman's multiple histories and supposedly explain why the universe is as we know it.

Determinism is obviously an issue in quantum physics. I would say that Hawking does not explain the multiple dimensions of M-theory very well; I would say he does a better job of that in The Grand Design (2010). To appeal to the sci-fi reader, Hawking has a rabbit rail on time travel. He explains how mathematically time travel is likely impossible, and would take an advanced civilization to figure out a way to do it without getting destroyed by radiation. He also has an odd divergence on human evolution and genetic engineering. While DNA doesn't seem to be evolving with new information, we're finding ways to engineer ourselves such that the human race will look dramatically different 400 years from now. We will have to do so to travel to the stars. This odd divergence on genetics is way outside his expertise and does not fit well in the book.

Hawking concludes with talk of a brane universe, and whether our universe is just a projected hologram. All of this is theoretical, which is a major problem for physicists. The scientific method, which Hawking holds favorably in The Grand Design, requires hypothesis testing. But Hawking ends the book by remarking that a particle collider larger than the universe would be required to test some of these theories. For more on these problems, and a large criticism of Hawking I plan to read Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics.

In all, good and accessible. 3.5 stars
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LibraryThing member JeffcoHumanists
Stephen Hawking covers advances in physics that have been made since he wrote A Brief History of Time. He starts off covering the theory of relativity then proceeds into items like branes and irrational time. Hawking looks at black holes and whether or not time travel is possible. A lot of the information in this book went over my head. I understood maybe half of what Hawking was getting at. The most understandable part to me was the discussion of whether or not a Star Trek like universe is likely to happen in the future. There are a lot of illustrations which did frequently help me understand the points being made in the book.… (more)
LibraryThing member jimocracy
I like that Hawking includes both scientific history and scientific theory in his books. It gives his ideas and concepts background; which he rounds out with data and research. This author is a very well-written scientist; making this book an enjoyable read.
LibraryThing member melydia
As with A Brief History of Time, I was frequently caught off guard by Hawking's sense of humor. His witty comments brighten up what could have been rather dry material. This is another I listened to on audiobook, read by Simon Prebble. The narrator was good and the subject matter interesting, but I think this would be better read in paper form, if only for the added benefit of diagrams. I had a lot of trouble following some of the more mind-bending notions in theoretical physics.… (more)

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