THE FIRST MAJOR WORK IN NEARLY A DECADE BY ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREAT THINKERS—A MARVELOUSLY CONCISE BOOK WITH NEW ANSWERS TO THE ULTIMATE QUESTIONS OF LIFE
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.
©2010 Steven Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow (P)2010 Random House Audio
Once I started listening to this book, I paused only briefly,then listened all the way through. THE GRAND DESIGN delivers on promises to explain incomprehensibly abstract concepts in a manner accessible to non scientists. The topics were discussed thoroughly, and the analagies given helped me to picture the various acrobatics of teeny tiny particles. The scientific method, it's history, and rocky road to the elegant system of understanding reality we have today, were also described, in terms of "sciences'" own mistakes and ravenously canibalistic culture where truth/evidence/transparency/descriptive and prescriptive powers are valued more than the feelings/reputation of any given scientist. This book does a great job of explaining WHY some deeply held "values" are fallacious, and based on specious arguments, and can be easily deconstructed. I enjoyed listening as such seeemingly odd physics were detailed, because the quantum world is so counter intuitive to our macro world. I recommend this book more so than "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME", because this new book is entirely more entertaining and compelling. It is a lovely addition to the many wonderful books, written by non believers, which popularize science, and more importantly, teach critical thinking.
I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that this book took me on. It was a great overview of a lot of physics that I already knew through many other readings, but also a great lesson in the history of man's knowledge about the world and universe we live in. While the authors do overextend themselves to a realm outside of physics when trying to declare the lack of need of God, I share their belief so I appreciated their conclusions. There will be many knocks on this book for stepping outside their box, but that WAS their point. While this is a science book written by physicists, it is also their take on the question of the origin of life, the universe, and everything. Just read the title, it's not called "How Physics Explains the Universe".
Hawking and Mlodinow present a great listen. It does get fairly heavily, but stays reachable. Despite what you may have seen in the media, they do not rule out the possibility of God. My only warning: Be careful listening to it in traffic. Some of the concepts require a fair deal of vizualization, and I nearly had 3 accidents because I was looking at the pictures in my head instead of the road. Buy it. You'll ejoy it, and you'll be able to harass both the establishment and the clergy with the knowledge you pick up.
I really like the thorough explanation of 'model dependent realism'.I don't like the fact that despite the flaws of relativity, the author projects it as absolute truth and uses it as a basis for validating M-theory.
The book carries primarily one school of thought and focuses too much on main stream physics. A discussion of recent experiments showing faster than light speeds, the source charge problem, wave nature of gravity, etc would have balanced things.
The performance was okay. It is a challenge explaining scientific concepts to everyday listeners.
A follow-up book presenting the same views wouldn't be of any use.
When Hawking sticks with physics (99%of the book), the Grand Design is mind-blowing. On the few occasions when he waxes philosophical and theological, he unfortunately looses his scientific moorings and makes value judgments beyond his pay grade. Just like the egotisim of religion that has led to the conviction of Galileo for embracing the Copernican "heresy" by the church, the egotisim of scientific knowing (the theory of everything) apparently leads to the tempting myth of knowing everything else (philosophy, theology, metaphysics) as well. This book is an amazing status report on the nature of scientific reality. Stay tuned for new editions of reality.
... Which is a good thing.
Clear and helpful explanations and interesting arguments, but way too many Armageddon-could-really-spoil-your-weekend-plans jokes. Even with the British accent, they get stale quickly.
The narrator comes off as more of a correspondence reader, certainly not a teacher whose passion for the subject would have been helpful.
Letting the rest of the world go by
The first time I listened to the book I felt I missed something. A year later I re-listened to it after having read many other science books thinking I must have not understood the original listen. After the second listen, I felt like I had missed something too. The book just doesn't have that much worth while in it.
Like many of the other reviewers have said, they spent way too much time trying to disprove God. I would have like to have seen more time explaining the science rather than trying disprove God. Hawkins is a great a scientist and teacher. He is one of the reasons I develop an interest in cosmology, but he is not so good as a philosopher. By the way, the book Handbook to Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreft disproves his arguments one by one.
Overall the book was good, but you get all that is in this book in second year Physics, but with the numbers that back it up. I know that it was probibly written for the lay person, but really I was underwhelmed. If taht was the only problem that I had with it I would have given it a 5 star, but the poor attempt at philosophy at the beginning was like reading Depak Chopra. An attempt to reconsile relativism while maintaining an objective reality from which evidence can be derived. The philosophy at the beginning is deeply flawed or poorly explained, I favor the former. I have read much, much better.
This book was surprisingly vague and uninformative. One Scientific American magazine about the multi-verse theory or a decent article about string theory would cover almost all the topics brought up in this book. Therefore, I would only recommend this book to people who have absolutely no prior exposure to the multi-verse theory.
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