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The Universe in a Nutshell [Hardcover]

Stephen Hawking
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 6 2001 055380202X 978-0553802023 1
Stephen Hawking’s phenomenal, multimillion-copy bestseller, A Brief History of Time, introduced the ideas of this brilliant theoretical physicist to readers all over the world.

Now, in a major publishing event, Hawking returns with a lavishly illustrated sequel that unravels the mysteries of the major breakthroughs that have occurred in the years since the release of his acclaimed first book.

The Universe in a Nutshell

• Quantum mechanics
• M-theory
• General relativity
• 11-dimensional supergravity
• 10-dimensional membranes
• Superstrings
• P-branes
• Black holes

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.

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From Amazon

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 own A Brief History of Time have never finished it. Hawking's The Universe in a Nutshell aims 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

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School-Writing in a lighthearted, personal, often humorous style and with colorful and entertaining graphics on every page, Hawking succeeds in communicating his love and enthusiasm for science. Without seeming to condescend, he makes a valiant attempt to clarify many fascinating and elusive topics such as relativity and time; multiple universes and dimensions; black holes and dark matter; prediction of the future; and the possibility of time travel. Those usually daunted by scientific texts might enjoy puzzling over the graphics; many of them, together with excellent captions, fully restate the content of the text in an alternative (and, for some, more understandable) manner. Also, Hawking enriches readers' vocabularies with many of the sometimes-playful words, phrases, and acronyms essential to an acquaintance with modern physics-supergravity and supersymmetry, "p-branes" and proto-galaxies, MACHOS and WIMPS. Among teens, Universe might well prove to have appeal beyond its obvious audience of science students and readers of popular science and science fiction.
Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
ALBERT EINSTEIN, THE DISCOVERER OF THE SPECIAL AND general theories of relativity, was born in Ulm, Germany, in 1879, but the following year the family moved to Munich, where his father, Hermann, and uncle, Jakob, set up a small and not very successful electrical business. 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
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Brian
In The Universe in a Nutshell, the amazing scientist Stephen Hawking takes the reader on a journey of all the various theories concerning the nature of our vast universe. These theories are so fantastical that they really stretch the limits of your imagination, yet they are grounded in real research by some of the best minds in the world.
Hawking addresses topics such as the quest among much of the physics community to unite Einstein's theory of relativity with quantum mechanics, which would describe the universe on scales of lightyears all the way down to the atomic level. He introduces amazing concepts such as imaginary time and the possibility of our universe consisting of up to 10 or 11 dimensions. He even addresses the possibility of time travel and alien life.
The book has wonderful illustrations which help one to grasp the profound concepts with which Hawking deals. Also, the book is written in such a manner that each chapter can basically stand on its own. If you liked A Brief History of Time, I'm sure you'll like this.
This is a really great book and if you have any interest in getting a glimpse into the most incredible, yet compelling theories of the universe this book would certainly be for you.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Physicist vs. Teacher March 1 2002
Format:Audio CD
Stephen Hawking attempts to answer, for the second time, the question "can the world's most brilliant physicist explain the most complex issues of physics to the average layperson?" The answer is, once again, "well...sort of". I must immediately separate my criticism of the book from any perceived criticism of the man. Dr. Hawking's intellect is immense, and his accomplishments are all the more astonishing considering his physical impairment. However, expertise in a given area does not automatically confer the status of "great teacher". In fact, it is not uncommon for world class experts to be less than world class in the art of teaching and explaining their areas of expertise. Alas, this is my summation of Dr. Hawking's latest effort. I thought for some time that any book on such a difficult subject must of necessity consist of significant compromises; mere mortals cannot hope to understand cutting edge physics. I thought this until I read "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene (Random House 1999). Dr. Greene's intellect no doubt cannot compare to Dr. Hawking's, however he has an uncanny ability to teach and explain the most difficult subjects. With an absolute minimum amount of illustration, he anticipates the reader's questions and offers a clear and concise explanation. Dr. Hawking's tome, on the other hand, covers much the same material but is much less accessible. The book reads like a "USA Today", with annoying explanatory vignettes and illustrations on almost every page, making for a very disjointed reading. One can almost hear the publisher saying " Steve - baby - they crucified us when the first book had no illustrations. We need to punch this one up with color charts and graphs!". Read more ›
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Stephen Hawking occupies the Lucasian chair at the University of Cambridge, which was once held by Isaac Newton before its motorization as Hawking writes humorously. Hawking is also regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Albert Einstein. His previous book, "A Brief History of Time," was sold an estimated 25 million copies world over, but was notorious for mostly not being read beyond the earliest chapters. "The Universe in a Nutshell" is a sequel to it, including many illustrations and telling in a more readable style about the major breakthroughs that have occurred in the field of theoretical physics after the release of the first book.
The author writes in the foreword that the structure of the book is like a tree, the first two chapters forming a central trunk from which the other chapters branch off. Thus, after reading two introductory chapters on the theory of relativity and "the shape of time," the reader can jump to any of later five chapters on the development of the universe, black holes, the possibility or impossibility of time travel, our future, and the future journey of discovery.
Many scientists tried to avoid addressing a question about the beginning of the universe. In chapter 3, however, Hawking states the necessity of trying to understand it on the basis of science for the following reason: If the laws of science are suspended at the beginning of the universe, they might fail also at other times.
The universe is considered to have begun in a big bang, a point where the whole universe was scrunched up into a single point of infinite density. At this point Einstein's general theory of relativity cannot be used, because when the universe is small the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics is important.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Earlier attempts to formulate an answer that takes into account existing theories and observations have failed because of obstacles posed by gravity. The Nature of Space and Time pitts two heavy weights trying to provide a loop quantum gravitational model that successfully merges current ideas, and which may enable us to overcome such difficulties. Stephen Hawking shot to fame in the world of physics when he provided a mathematical proof for the Big Bang theory. This theory showed that the entire universe exploded from a singularity, an infinitely small point with infinite density and infinite gravity. Hawking was able to come to his proof using mathematical techniques that had been developed by Roger Penrose. These techniques were however developed to deal not with the beginning of the Universe but with black holes.

Science had long predicted that if a sufficiently large star collapsed at the end of its life, all the matter left in the star would be crushed into an infinitely small point with infinite gravity and infinite density...a singularity. Hawking realized that the Universe was, in effect, a black hole in reverse. Instead of matter being crushed into a singularity, the Universe began when a singularity expanded to form everything we see around us today, from stars to planets to people. Hawking realized that to come to a complete understanding of the Universe he would have to unravel the mysteries of the black hole.

Hawking and his fellow physicists embarked on an extraordinary intellectual expedition to tame the black hole. Slowly physicists were coming to understand this most destructive force of nature. But Hawking realized that there was something missing from the emerging picture.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A very good book. I'm impressed with how he explains theoretical concepts with the aid of diagrams (and with dry sense of humour). Read more
Published on Dec 8 2011 by starjunkie
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book!
It was a great read, Stephen Hawking explains theories with wit and clarity. He also uses pictures to help the reader better understand concepts. Read more
Published on Dec 4 2011 by Ryan
4.0 out of 5 stars The Universe In a Nutshell
Excellant read. Stephen Hawking's books are always a great academic challenge. You will not be disappointed!
Published on Nov. 10 2009 by Marie C. Macleod
5.0 out of 5 stars Blown Away
Although the book isn't 100% layman, there are a number of revelations about our universe that have completely blown my mind. Read more
Published on May 26 2009 by M. Brisson
4.0 out of 5 stars "Curled Dimensions" or Just Mimicking the Usual Three?
"Curled Dimensions" or Just Mimicking the Usual Three?
The claims by Hawking (The World in a Nutshell) and Greene (The Elegant Universe) to be close to a theory of... Read more
Published on July 1 2004 by Donald Rudin
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book
Inspite of all the negative reviews for this book I love it, it all depends what you want out of this book. If you want to get familiar with Mr. Read more
Published on May 26 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius
Stephen Hawking has a way of turning deep thoughts into intelligible sentences, and knowing how difficult it is for him to actually form sentences, due to his illness, this book is... Read more
Published on May 12 2004 by Kevin Seeger
5.0 out of 5 stars Helping to Organize the Planets
Because the earth is not the only planet, and much of what occurs on earth affects our survival within the planetary system of the universe we call home, it is helpful to know... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by Patricia B. Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing cerebral journey
An amazing cerebral journey from the edge of time to the far edge of universe, Stephen Hawking's UNIVERSE IN A NUTSHELL is the perfect book to get if you're not a schooled... Read more
Published on March 29 2004 by C. Fletcher
5.0 out of 5 stars God has blessed this brilliant man!
This book envites us again to speculate a lot about a 4th or higher dimensions of space, a 2nd or higher dimensions of time, about black holes, (small and) Big Bang(s), eternity... Read more
Published on March 6 2004
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