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Publisher's Summary


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

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  • Overall
  • Brandi
  • pittsburgh, PA, United States
  • 10-14-10

Hawking succeeds in mind-blowing physics, real

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.

19 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Kristopher
  • Loganville, GA, United States
  • 09-16-10

A GREAT book but not purely science

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".

31 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Scott
  • McKinney, TX
  • 09-27-10

The grandest designs are the simplest

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.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Larry
  • Chandler, AZ, United States
  • 02-14-11

Be aware......

This book would be better suited as a lecture for graduate-level physics students than the casual fan of science and the cosmos. At least three quarters of the book is dedicated to particle physics, and I didn't really see the tie-in to a "Grand Design". It's mainly one big pitch for M theory being the "theory of everything", but it didn't connect with me. The narrator has a great voice and is easy to listen to, which made it possible for me to stick through the entire reading.

12 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Wayne
  • IRvine, CA, United States
  • 09-15-10

99 percent intelligence, 1 percent egotisim

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.

26 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Can_I
  • Accra, GT, Ghana
  • 04-23-12

well explained concepts

What did you like best about The Grand Design? What did you like least?

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.

What could Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

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.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

The performance was okay. It is a challenge explaining scientific concepts to everyday listeners.

Do you think The Grand Design needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

A follow-up book presenting the same views wouldn't be of any use.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story
  • kevmoo
  • United States
  • 12-14-11

Solid, but just solid.

I've consumed a lot of content in this area (books, videos, etc). I felt like the authors were a bit distracted here. What is M theory. A discussion of creation myths and how they map to our desire to understand. I felt that the book jumped around a bit. I felt the treatment of M theory to be a bit lacking. I did learn some things. I came away with a much greater appreciation for Feynman, especially. But I was also a bit disappointed. I'm not sure how to compare the content of this book to that of Brian Greene, but Dr. Greene does weave a better narrative.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • hany
  • cairo, Egypt
  • 09-16-10

After all a good book to read and think about

I am a fan of Hawking and read and listened to many of his works. After llistening to The Grand Design I thought the whole new thing could have been stated in an essay or a lecture. The science facts were almost all repeated in his prevous books. However he got the talent to weave these facts into intellegent works. Going through the book one might think he was arguing the exact opposite: (there were a grand designer) but he made his point towards the end.
At first i thought the narrator was monotonous ( boring) but on second thoughts i figured he was not reading harry potter. Science facts need to be stated without much drama
After all a good book to read and think about

9 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


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.

12 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Eric
  • San bernardino, CA, United States
  • 10-28-10

I really expected More

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.

6 of 10 people found this review helpful