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on July 3, 2004
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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on December 6, 2001
Stephen Hawking is one of if not the most prominent physicist on the planet today, and works like A Brief History of Time make it easy to see why. Hawking knows just about everything about modern physics, hence the lofty title. From time travel to black holes to general relativity, quantum mechanics and even string theory, he never fails to captivate and galvanize.
The strongest sections in the book are probably those on black holes and time travel, so if you are interested in either of those areas, you would be doing yourself a favor by buying it. The whole book is highly stimulating, though, so even just a casual interest in science would be well-fed by any chapter. In fact, for those of you who are only mildly involved with or intrigued by modern scientific theories, A Brief History of Time just might push you over the edge and make a fanatic out of you.
With the addition of literally dozens of illustrations per chapter, Hawking has made his book extremely readable and colorful, both comprehensive and comprehendable. Yet there are some topics covered inside that are simply too complicated for many people to understand. How black holes can emit radiation even though nothing can escape their surfaces is discussed, for example. (The answer: a particle and its antimatter counterpart can, according to quantum physics, spontaneously emerge out of nothingness very near to the black hole's event horizon--anywhere else they would collide and erupt into pure energy, but near the event horizon one is sucked into the black hole and the other escapes. In this sense black holes are like "matter factories", causing new matter to enter the universe out of nowhere. Pretty weird and confusing stuff.)
The only other quibble I have with this book is that it is too short! That just attests to the quality of the book, though. It was a very worthwhile read for me; it will be for you, too.
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on July 16, 2016
It should be a fact that people are taking their own time to be writing a review for this book, and trust me it is no "ordinary" book. Stephen Hawking takes the reader on a journey through different dimensions, possibilities and worlds alike. It's no wonder that this book has over 40 holds at my local library, it's pure genius. The way it can explain physics is both fascinating to someone who doesn't know much about physics and is likewise as interesting for a full-on physicist. Stephen Hawking wastes no time and talks about the CONCEPTS (the interesting part) and leaves out the complex calculations and math out of it. It's more important that the reader should be aware of what something is before they know what it does. This is no critical acclaim, it's only to acknowledge the brilliance of someone so gifted and talented.
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on October 14, 2003
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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on January 25, 2010
Like some other reviewers, it took a few tries spaced a few years apart to finally get through it. If you try this book keep in mind that it's targetted to give someone with little more than highschool math and physics a gereral understanding of some pretty complex topics; relativity, quantum mechanics, black holes, etc. This book actually does a pretty good job off doing that. For some it will fly over their head, others will want more detail, but Hawking has sold millions of copies of this book because the level of detail and complexeity of discussions are about right.
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on April 10, 2004
Stephen Hawking brings black holes, multidimensional realities and what lie beyond our stratosphere to life in this beautiful photographic view of our universe and beyond. For both the lay person and the physicist alike, anyone who is interested in learning about what humankind has been trying to figure out about our cosmos for eons will love this book. Makes a great gift for anyone interested in our universe and beyond. Highly Recommended for its brilliance and images.
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on January 30, 2003
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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on June 21, 2002
Stephen Hawking is an established scientific genius, but this book establishes him as a brilliant writer - an extremely rare, yet valuable combination. A point he brings to attention is that it had been possible for the philosophers of ancient times to master practically all the knowledge of academia. Today, however, only a handful of extremely specialized scientists understand the latest ideas in their fields. While men of ancient times could easily understand the latest scientific ideas, people today are lost. Enter "A Brief History of Time." This book helps fill in that gap between an average person's understanding and the highly specialized scientists' knowledge.
This book covers ideas that are profound and affect everyone. It explains theories that concern the creation of the universe, time travel, light-speed travel, and many more topics. Imagine actually having some grasp of Einstein's general relativity. Ever heard of string theory? How might time travel actually be possible? What are these black holes of which I've heard? This book packs an incredible amount of information into its 248 pages, yet somehow is still easily read - this is the true marvel of this book.
The illustrated version is worth the extra money. It contains many updates and additions throughout the book by Hawking (including the time travel chapter!). Every (and I mean every) concept throughout the book is accompanied by at least one illustration - think about it: 240 color illustrations with only 248 pages!
Towards the middle of the book, some of the concepts get more complex (when he really gets into the details of sub-atomic particles). However, as a recent high school graduate, I can say with some level of certainty that the average person can understand 90% of this book - and those parts are the most interesting! It will change the way you look at the universe.
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on June 14, 2004
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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on May 4, 2015
It's an amazing book. Stephen Hawking is a remarkable personality who thrives for knowledge to understand how our Universe is built, why are we here and where did we come from.He is not only a brilliant scientist but a philosopher who strongly believes that we've been given an opportunity to explore the World around us and try to read the language of Nature. The content of the book will challenge our very perception of the surrounding world, how we see objects, our sense of time. It will show how huge (or small), complex and beautiful is our Universe, how much progress the mankind have done in revealing it's secrets and there is still a long way to discover it all. It's a short book but be prepared to re-read every page, so you understand better what S.Hawking is trying to explain there. All those complex ideas he put for us in a simplest possible way with nice illustrations, with no mathematical formulas or scary geometrical drawings. If you want to get a sense of how far we've got with understanding of our World, have a light touch of a matter the top physicists of the world are dealing with every day, if you want to bug your mind with even more questions (but questions will become more interesting, more advanced), then this book is for you.
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