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A Brief History of Time [Paperback]

Stephen Hawking
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1998 0553380168 978-0553380163 UPDA

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

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.


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Stephen Hawking, one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists in history, wrote the modern classic A Brief History of Time to help nonscientists understand the questions being asked by scientists today: Where did the universe come from? How and why did it begin? Will it come to an end, and if so, how? Hawking attempts to reveal these questions (and where we're looking for answers) using a minimum of technical jargon. Among the topics gracefully covered are gravity, black holes, the Big Bang, the nature of time, and physicists' search for a grand unifying theory. This is deep science; these concepts are so vast (or so tiny) as to cause vertigo while reading, and one can't help but marvel at Hawking's ability to synthesize this difficult subject for people not used to thinking about things like alternate dimensions. The journey is certainly worth taking, for, as Hawking says, the reward of understanding the universe may be a glimpse of "the mind of God." --Therese Littleton --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“[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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
A well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
A Brief History of Time is 3 things at once:
First, it is a chronology of the various important scientists and discoveries over the centuries, all leading to where we are now.
Second, it explains, between the beginner and intermediate levels, an understanding of concepts such as black holes, worm holes, the beginning and potential end of time, particles and waves, quantum mechanics, and other issues in science.
Third, it is almost an autobiography of Dr. Hawking's scientific life. He interjects wonderful bits of humor and explains the concepts carefully and as simply as he can.
He is also respectful of religion, briefly interjecting his ideas about how religion does not have to be incompatible with the rapidly expanding ideas of science, and that religion should embrace science more.
One part I found humorous was his explanation of a bet he lost with a colleague (he seems to have a lot of long-standing bets going). He owned up to being wrong, and paid the penalty, which was a "one-year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of [his colleague's] liberated wife."
This book is for physics experts as well as people who know nothing about science and just want to learn some of the basic concepts. Like the universe, expand your mind.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Skating the Edge of the Incomprehensible June 14 2004
Format:Paperback
My science background is virtually nil, but I found this book to be an interesting and relatively easy read in light of the difficult subject matter. For anyone who has pondered how it all started, how it will all end, or such ideas as whether the universe has a boundary, this book offers a fascinating discussion of our current understanding of these matters.
Hawking first explores how our view of the universe has changed since ancient times, then explains the revolutionary theories of relativity and quantum mechanics. Einstein developed the idea that space-time is "curved" and exists in four dimensions with his theory of relativity. Quantum mechanics was especially interesting-- the idea that matter can be viewed as either a wave or a particle, that matter and forces consist of the same particles with different "spin," or that all forces might be different incarnations of the same absolute force, was especially interesting.
Hawking also explores the most cutting-edge issues in astrophysics. He shows how the universe can be considered like the earth, with time beginning at the North Pole and ending at the "big crunch" at the South Pole. The question of "what happened before the big bang" thus becomes immaterial, as space-time was infinitely curved and "time" as we know it did not exist. He also suggests that space-time may be curved and therefore "finite without a boundary," a fascinating idea that I found difficult to visualize. Hawking asks what role a Creator might have if the universe is a "closed system" like this.
This book packs an enormous amount of information into few pages, but it is not as difficult a read as your average physics textbook. I highly recommend it to anyone concerned with the eternal issues confronting humankind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, elegant, concise! Oct. 14 2003
Format:Paperback
This perhaps the masterpiece of all science books aimed at general readers. I highly recommend everyone reads it at some point of their lives. Stephen hawking is one of the most brilliant scientists of our time, and in this book he demonstrates how he is equally one of the best science writers. At first I was so intimidated by the reputation of Hawking as a leading physicist I dared not open the book, expecting to find bulky equations and unintelligible discussions of exotica. I couldn't have been further from the truth.
"A Brief History of Time" defies the majority of science books in how easily it is accessible to the general readers. Instead of equations, one finds very simple diagrams beautifully explaining some of the strangest physical phenomena: space-time, relativity, black holes, the Big Bang. It is all in here, and a glossary is provided to remind readers of the meaning of some of the more exotic terms. Best of all, Hawking himself has played major roles in discovering and understanding some of those phenomena, so this book is an autobiography of sorts from one of the people who actually founded modern cosmology.
One of the best things about this book is its brevity, making it possible for one to finish this book in an amount of time such that one remembers the beginning and does not lose sight of the big picture throughout. This is a major advantage over some of the other books like the thick "Black Holes" book by Kip Thorne. What this book lacks, though, is a bibliography to direct interested readers to other books on the topic. Perhaps this is a product of this book being a pioneer - very few other introductory books on science existed when it first appeared.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's not THAT good, nor is it THAT easy to read. Jan. 30 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I don't care what anyone says, that book was not easy to get through. I have a degree in Math, and he does not give this stuff in layman's terms. Most of it, will eventually make sense if you can wrap your head around the hard to grasp principles, but he keeps adding more, and more to the theories and he will definitely lose you at some point.
Now don't get me wrong, it's obvious that we are dealing with complicated stuff, and he needs to discuss these things, but I just don't want you to think that this is an easy read. It's a necessary read, and I DO recommend you buy it, but don't think it will be easy.
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