Tag Archives: Black Holes

A Brief History Of Time by Stephen Hawking

16 Mar

This is apparently the second most unread book on British bookshelves, after the bible. Reason enough to have a read.

As I started to read this book the language was very non technical and it seemed very accessible. As I got into it however, I started to be disappointed: for some basic things, like describing what probability is, he went into ludicrous detail using patronising analogies. But then it got to the meat of some of the theories, such as Feynman’s multiple histories, and he glossed over the idea.

The synopsis of the sequel – A Briefer History of Time – says “readers have repeatedly told Professor Hawking of their great difficulty in understanding some of the book’s most important concepts” so it looks like it’s not just me.

The impression I came away with after reading this book, is that we have some useful theories – general and special relativity, quantum theory, etc. that describe the universe well. However, the impression I got about a lot of the other theories about origins, black holes, boundaries, etc. is that they are made up ideas that might explain things, but nobody really knows. Almost like they’re metaphors to describe what might be. Maybe that’s his way of getting across what they mean, but then I’d have preferred some more of the thinking behind them, and more of the observations that match the theories.

In short, this is probably better as a review of the ideas for someone that already has a good understanding of the physics; there are better books out there to get the hang of these ideas (see Jeff Forshaw and Brian Cox’s excellent books).

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