For someone with a very limited background in Physics I found I could grasp and be highly entertained by the material. If you are interested at all in AstroPhysics this is a must read. I will be leveraging this title as my foundation and will be looking for other titles to expand on the subject.
Stephen Hawking book "The Universe in a Nutshell" is a sequel to his famous "Brief History of Time" and brings to our attention some discoveries and findings in the theories of the universe that happened in almost 15 years since the first, book was published.
I'm not going to review the scientific content of this popular book - there are so many good reviews, that it does not make any sense. However, I want to mention that, as always, Hawking is the great teacher and science advocate, and when he speaks of the most difficult concepts like p-branes, singularities or time travels.
I want to stress some important things. It is admirable how he positions since in the framework of human knowledge. As a person who touches, in his research the great mysteries of the Universe, he had temptation to tend to religious, or, anti-religious interpretations of his research. However, with Stephen - it is not to happen. He says of himself as of positivist from the good school of Carl Popper.
In the past I was also scientist, and I must say - this is the only approach to science we can have and preserve science objectivity and truth searching power!
What is more important, if one is truly religious, he or she will find in Stephen Hawking thoughts, the deep confirmation of spiritual message we get from science - but it is not so simple and not straightforward, as many would expect.
It is amazing when you read, close in time about sages of Kabalah and their thoughts on many worlds G-d COULD create, and suddenly you jump into Hawkings and read about "parallel worlds" of modern theory of Universe...
The book is also great for the large dose of good humour. As for author suffering so much from incurable illness - this is just great and elevating ...
I will finish my review, with incredible connection of the book to Shakespeare Hamlet:
"O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself asking of infinite space..."
I walk away from this book realizing three things. First, that Hawking, "the world's smartest man" (according to The Simpsons), has a limited if not naive understanding of the philosophy, history, and sociology of science. In spite of his lip service to scientific positivism, he seems very much to believe that the supposedly imminent Theory of Everything will describe how the universe actually works, instead of being just one way (out of many) to explain incomplete observations. Hawking believes in scientific progress. Second, I realize that the standard model of the universe, if indeed we could indentify just one, is utterly absurd. Hawking is supposedly describing the universe on the smallest and largest scale, but this is not the world in which we LIVE, i.e., make our own observations and ratiocinations. When it comes to the very large and the very small (and even the very fast), we rely on scientists to elucidate us, and what a tale they tell: relative time, 10-11 dimensions, real time travel. Why do we listen? Hawking's writing is sometimes quite enjoyable but rarely cogent per se. Do we need to believe? Third, I see that science is always a language of metaphors, with all their aptness and distortions. "Strings," "wormholes," and apparently even "dimension," are all just linguistic shorthands for concepts with which we have no experience to even justify such labelings. A fascinating book to be sure, not because it explains any secrets of the universe, but because we think it might.
The author makes an attempt to explain the various universal laws governing things that happen. It's a valiant effort but I am not sure how accurate it is at times. Some of it is speculation and guesses. This would be an excellent book to read in conjunction with the Bible and books of that sort. The three basic laws of Newton seem to hold more water than some of the recent theories.