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The Grand Design [Hardcover]

Stephen Hawking , Leonard Mlodinow
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 7 2010 0553805371 978-0553805376 Second Impression
When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation?

The most fundamental questions about the origins of the universe and of life itself, once the province of philosophy, now occupy the territory where scientists, philosophers, and theologians meet—if only to disagree. In their new book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by both brilliance and simplicity.

In The Grand Design they explain that according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. When applied to the universe as a whole, this idea calls into question the very notion of cause and effect. But the “top-down” approach to cosmology that Hawking and

Mlodinow describe would say that the fact that the past takes no definite form means that we create history by observing it, rather than that history creates us. The authors further explain that we ourselves are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe, and show how quantum theory predicts the “multiverse”—the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.

Along the way Hawking and Mlodinow question the conventional concept of reality, posing a “model-dependent” theory of reality as the best we can hope to find. And they conclude with a riveting assessment of M-theory, an explanation of the laws governing us and our universe that is currently the only viable candidate for a complete “theory of everything.” If confirmed, they write, it will be the unified theory that Einstein was looking for, and the ultimate triumph of human reason.

A succinct, startling, and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform—and provoke—like no other.

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“The authors bring together an anecdotal clarity that is something of a first for the genre. . . . Making science like this interesting is not all that hard; making it accessible is the real trick, one that The Grand Design pulls off.”—Time

“In this short and sprightly book, Messrs. Hawking and Mlodinow take the reader through a whirlwind tour of fundamental physics and cosmology.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Fascinating . . . a wealth of ideas [that] leave us with a clearer understanding of modern physics in all its invigorating complexity.”—Los Angeles Times
“Groundbreaking.”—The Washington Post

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About the Author

Stephen Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for thirty years, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including, most recently, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His books for the general reader include the classic A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell, and A Briefer History of Time. He lives in Cambridge, England.
Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist at Caltech and the bestselling author of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives, Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace, and Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life. He also wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He lives in South Pasadena, California.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
142 of 153 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another great book from a great physicist Sept. 3 2010
First, I didn't want to wait for the Canadian release, so I just bought this book in the US.

Next, this book is about trying to answer some of the universe's biggest questions: Why is there something instead of nothing? Why do we exist? Why does this particular set of laws govern our universe and not some other set? What Hawking does is use Quantum Mechanics theory to explain our best answers to these questions. The answers are surprisingly satisfying. While it won't all be new to anyone who's read his Brief History of Time, the theories here are presented clearly, without explicit math, and in a way that's accessible to the average reader. Make no mistake though, this isn't a "physics for dummies" in that the ideas themselves are quite complex. But it shouldn't be too hard for most people to follow Hawking along well enough to get a basic understanding of what modern physics knows. I'm certainly not a physicist, and I found the reading to be just about right. In fact, I think that's largely the result of the contributions of his co-author Leonard Mlodinow, who's an accomplished popular science writer.

I'm really curious and don't mind math, so I wouldn't have minded a bit more of that. But it's OK without it, including the way Hawking and Mlodinow can illustrate complex ideas visually. The general gist of quantum mechanics relies on probabilities, the possibility of multiple universes, and the search for a theory that will completely unify all the "laws" of the universe. It's a really ambitious goal that I hope, but don't expect, physicists will soon reach.

Finally, despite the hoopla that the media made, this book is not a serious anti-religion book. This is not another God Delusion (by Richard Dawkins).
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33 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative Sept. 16 2010
By Peter Cantelon TOP 500 REVIEWER
Stephen Hawking's latest book is very informative and compelling. Unlike A Brief History of Time where he generally focuses more on cosmology than physics this book is solidly planted in the realm of bleeding edge theoretical physics.

While it is a short book clocking in at four to five hours of reading it is by no means a simple book. The content is far denser in terms of ease of understanding than his previous work which could be called introductory in comparison to this one.

The first half of the book is really a foundational historical introduction to the real premise which is to introduce the lay person to M-theory...a potential winner in the search for a Grand Unifying Theory i(GUT)in science. Still Hawking is not unrealistic in the sense that he also proposes that new lessons learned from M-Theory about the nature of the universe suggest that a GUT may not in fact be possible.

I would suggest the only weakness is when Hawking strays into the realm of the philosopher or theologian by making sweeping declarations about the unnecessity for a god and the very bold (and some might suggest arrogant) statement at the beginning of the book that "philosophy is dead" and science is the only reliable source of knowledge in the new world today.

Still having said all of that the book is a very compelling read and certainly will require a re-reading or two. It is gratifying that geniuses like Hawking can find the time to translate and distill some of the most mind-bending and exciting developments of physics to a level that the rest of us can consume.

While you may not agree with everything Hawking says you will most certainly come away more knowledgeable and pleased. A very good read!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read; highly recommended Oct. 21 2010
This provides yet another addition to Stephen Hawking's list of books for the lay-person. This does have some overlap with his previous material but is written in a manner that is much easier to understand. His views on model-dependent realism are insightful and one might want to consider how these theories might apply to areas outside of theoretical physics. I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of the Grand Design Oct. 4 2010
By botchi
This book is awesome and tough reading, but not too intense so that the everyday person can understand and draw something from it.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hawking's first published book in nearly 10 years, The Grand Design sets out to solve the question "Is there a unified theory?" If you've thought about this and think not, then you are right. The quick answer is No. However, many scientists have been pondering this for quite some time. Einstein did not find what he was looking for and, for now at least, Hawking and his colleague Mlodinow have concluded that a so-called unified theory of everything does not exist.

In their recent publication they open with a lovely reference to Douglas Adams' number 42, continue with a brief history of science, putter about defining laws, philosophize about realism and then talk about what makes a good theory. Its not for a ways in that you get to some good stuff; the meat and potatoes of what The Grand Design is all about is something referred to as 'M-theory'. Unfortunately, M-theory isn't anything new, rather a new-ish term for uniting the current physical theories. The proper new material in The Grand Design can be summarized as follows: M-Theory dictates that the universe is composed of 11 total dimensions. Full stop.

Compared to Hawking's other books, the amount of description and background material in this book is little, rather its focus is on a very clear description of where physicists are with current knowledge and technology, leaving the details and especially the mathematics behind. Hawking does a great job explaining some fascinating experiments and their implications including the double-slit experiment involving buckyballs and John Conway's game of life.

Overall, The Grand Design is simple to read, well illustrated, and without mathematical formulas.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Somewhat challenging.
Having some background in astronomy, I found the more up to date ideas of cosmology very enlightening.
Definitely worth a read.
Published 1 month ago by Robert Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars A Layman Approach to Complex Science
This book was an easier read than Hawkin's previous publications, and even comes with some humour. From quarks to infinity he reviews human discoveries leading to where we are... Read more
Published 2 months ago by wonndatt
2.0 out of 5 stars Trying to create a new religion?
I have read this book twice, six months apart trying to keep an open mind and accept some of the conclusions presented. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Likes to listen to radio
4.0 out of 5 stars Made me think...
This book is for the thinkers if your interested in finding out the origins of the universe, "The Grand Design" is the place to start! Read more
Published 7 months ago by BM
1.0 out of 5 stars Seeing few trees doesn't mean you have seen the Forest
A great philosophical book from someone who proclaim philosophy is dead :)

I hope many of the mislead people out there have actually read and investigated this book in a... Read more
Published 8 months ago by M. Judi
3.0 out of 5 stars The Grand Design is much more
Of course Stephen is the front runner on physics, but he really dummy's it down in the Grand Design. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Hostile
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprendre l'univers
J'ai lu trois fois ce livre et compte bien le relire. Il est dans mon salon à vu de nez. Tout un vocabulaire sur l'univers. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Alayn Larouche
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and religion - not mutually exclusive
The Grand Design is an erudite but clear and challenging read, one clearly intended and largely succeeding in reaching out to the layman. Read more
Published 15 months ago by R Nickford
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
Very thorough discussion of the very fundamental laws of the universe. Very clear explanation of quantum mechanics - something, according to Feynman, that nobody understood - and... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ilya Sverdlov
4.0 out of 5 stars The core of our universe
An easy to read book about a difficult subject. Well written with good, colour illustrations - although it could have used Figure Numbers instead of saying "the diagram above" -... Read more
Published 17 months ago by J. Hardy
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