A Briefer History of Time

( 110 )

Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS

The science classic made more accessible
• More concise • Illustrated

FROM ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT MINDS OF OUR TIME COMES A BOOK THAT CLARIFIES HIS MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS
 
Stephen Hawking’s worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time remains a landmark volume in scientific writing. But for years ...

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Overview

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS

The science classic made more accessible
• More concise • Illustrated

FROM ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT MINDS OF OUR TIME COMES A BOOK THAT CLARIFIES HIS MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS
 
Stephen Hawking’s worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time remains a landmark volume in scientific writing. But for years readers have asked for a more accessible formulation of its key concepts—the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, and the history and future of the universe. A Briefer History of Time is Professor Hawking’s response.

Although “briefer,” this book is much more than a mere explanation of Hawking’s earlier work. A Briefer History of Time both clarifies and expands on the great subjects of the original, and records the latest developments in the field—from string theory to the search for a unified theory of all the forces of physics. Thirty-seven full-color illustrations enhance the text and make A Briefer History of Time an exhilarating and must-have addition in its own right to the great literature of science and ideas.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Stephen Hawking's 1988 A Brief History of Time is hands down the bestselling book by a theoretical physicist in history. In fact, according the author's own estimates, one copy of his science classic has been sold for every 750 earthlings. This updated "briefer history of time" presents a more concise and accessible version of Hawking's seminal introduction to cosmology.
From the Publisher
“Hawking and Mlodinow provide one of the most lucid discussions of this complex topic ever written for a general audience. . . . [They] maintain the same wry, lively tone that made A Brief History of Time such a delight.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“May be the clearest introduction to physics ever . . . An utterly engrossing read.”—Booklist

Library Journal
True, Hawking here aims to provide a less technically complex version of his famed A Brief History of Time. But he's also updated the content to reflect the very latest research. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553385465
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/13/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 219,129
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge; his other books for the general reader include A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and The Universe in a Nutshell.

Physicist Leonard Mlodinow, his collaborator for this new edition, has taught at Cal Tech, written for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and is the author of Euclid’s Window and Feynman’s Rainbow and the coauthor of the children’s book series The Kids of Einstein Elementary.

Biography

In the universe as a whole, the nature of black holes may be one of the most puzzling mysteries. No less puzzling, in the slightly smaller universe of book publishing, is the astounding popular success of Stephen Hawking's 1988 book on the matter, or anti-matter, as it were: A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.

Clocking in at just over 200 pages, it was, indeed, brief, but it was hardly the easy read its marketers promised. Nor did it stray much beyond the tone of a scholarly lecture, though at times it did take quick autobiographical peeks into Hawking's personal life. Still, it is just the author's persona that may have been the selling point prompting more than 10 million people worldwide to pick up a copy -- and to have it translated into more than 40 languages in the 10 years since its release.

For Stephen Hawking is an instantly recognizable public figure -- even for those who haven't delved into his so far unprovable theories about black holes. Stricken by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- or Lou Gehrig's disease, as it is called in the States -- while he was working toward his doctorate at Cambridge University, this Englishman is known for the keen wit and intellect that reside within his severely disabled body. He uses a motorized wheelchair to get around and a voice synthesizer to communicate -- a development, he complains, that has given him an American accent. He has guest-starred, in cartoon form, on an episode of The Simpsons and has appeared in the flesh on Star Trek: The Next Generation, using the benefits of time travel to play poker with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. (He has said he doesn't believe in the theory himself, noting that the most powerful evidence of its impossibility is the present-day dearth of time-traveling tourists from the future.)

The son of a research biologist, Hawking resisted familial urging that he major in biology and instead studied physics and chemistry -- as a nod to his father -- when he went to Oxford University as a 17-year-old. In academic writing, Hawking had an extensive career pre-History, starting with The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, coauthored with G.F.R. Ellis in 1973. But in the late 1980s, faced with the expenses incurred by his illness, he took up Bantam Books' offer to explain the mysteries of the universe to the lay public.

"This is one of the best books for laymen on this subject that has appeared in recent years," The Christian Science Monitor wrote in 1988. "Hawking is one of the greatest theoretical cosmologists of our time. He is greater, by consensus among his colleagues, than other expert authors who have written good popular books on the subject recently. And he is greater, by far, than the ‘experts' who have ‘explained' quantum physics and cosmology in terms that support a religious agenda." And The New York Times in April 1988 said, "Through his cerebral journeys, Mr. Hawking is bravely taking some of the first, though tentative, steps toward quantizing the early universe, and he offers us a provocative glimpse of the work in progress."

Since then, A Brief History of Time has been republished in an illustrated edition (1996) and as an updated and expanded 10th anniversary edition (1998). In Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, a collection of 13 essays and the transcript of an extended interview with the BBC, Hawking turned more autobiographical, mixing stories about his studies in college and the beginning of his awareness that he had ALS with thoughts on how black holes can spawn baby universes and on the scientific community's efforts to create a unified theory that will explain everything in the universe. And in The Universe in a Nutshell, his sequel to A Brief History of Time, Hawking takes the same approach as he did in his first bestseller, explaining to the lay reader such ideas as the superstring theory, supergravity, time travel, and quantum theory.

A common current in Hawking's writing -- aside from his grasp of the complexities of the universe -- is a sharp wit. In one of the rare personal reflections in A Brief History of Time, he said he began thinking about black holes in the early 1970s in the evenings as he was getting ready for bed: "My disability makes this rather a slow process, so I had plenty of time." In life, he has a reputation for quickly turning his wheelchair away of a conversation that displeases him, even running his wheels over the toes of the offending conversant.

Even questions about his muse are likely to draw an answer tinged with pointed humor. When Time asked Hawking why he decided to add explaining the universe to a schedule already taxed by his scholarly writing and lecture tours, he answered, "I have to pay for my nurses."

Good To Know

Hawking worked 1,000 hours in his three years at Oxford, roughly an hour a day. "I'm not proud of this lack of work," he said in Stephen Hawking's a Brief History of Time: A Reader's Companion. "I'm just describing my attitude at the time, which I shared with most of my fellow students: an attitude of complete boredom and feeling that nothing was worth making an effort for."

Despite his science degrees, Hawking has no formal training in math and has said he had to pick up what he knows as he went along.

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    1. Hometown:
      Cambridge, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 8, 1942
    2. Place of Birth:
      Oxford, England

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Thinking About the Universe

WE LIVE IN A STRANGE AND wonderful universe. Its age, size, violence, and beauty require extraordinary imagination to appreciate. The place we humans hold within this vast cosmos can seem pretty insignificant. And so we try to make sense of it all and to see how we fit in. Some decades ago, a well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the turtle standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

Most people nowadays would find the picture of our universe as an infinite tower of turtles rather ridiculous. But why should we think we know better? Forget for a minute what you know-or think you know-about space. Then gaze upward at the night sky. What would you make of all those points of light? Are they tiny fires? It can be hard to imagine what they really are, for what they really are is far beyond our ordinary experience. If you are a regular stargazer, you have probably seen an elusive light hovering near the horizon at twilight. It is a planet, Mercury, but it is nothing like our own planet. A day on Mercury lasts for two-thirds of the planet's year. Its surface reaches temperatures of over 400 degrees Celsius when the sun is out, then falls to almost -200 degrees Celsius in the dead of night. Yet as different as Mercury is from our own planet, it is not nearly as hard to imagine as a typical star, which is a huge furnace that burns billions of pounds of matter each second and reaches temperatures of tens of millions of degrees at its core.

Another thing that is hard to imagine is how far away the planets and stars really are. The ancient Chinese built stone towers so they could have a closer look at the stars. It's natural to think the stars and planets are much closer than they really are-after all, in everyday life we have no experience of the huge distances of space. Those distances are so large that it doesn't even make sense to measure them in feet or miles, the way we measure most lengths. Instead we use the light-year, which is the distance light travels in a year. In one second, a beam of light will travel 186,000 miles, so a light-year is a very long distance. The nearest star, other than our sun, is called Proxima Centauri (also known as Alpha Centauri C), which is about four light-years away. That is so far that even with the fastest spaceship on the drawing boards today, a trip to it would take about ten thousand years.

Ancient people tried hard to understand the universe, but they hadn't yet developed our mathematics and science. Today we have powerful tools: mental tools such as mathematics and the scientific method, and technological tools like computers and telescopes. With the help of these tools, scientists have pieced together a lot of knowledge about space. But what do we really know about the universe, and how do we know it? Where did the universe come from? Where is it going? Did the universe have a beginning, and if so, what happened before then? What is the nature of time? Will it ever come to an end? Can we go backward in time? Recent breakthroughs in physics, made possible in part by new technology, suggest answers to some of these long-standing questions. Someday these answers may seem as obvious to us as the earth orbiting the sun-or perhaps as ridiculous as a tower of turtles. Only time (whatever that may be) will tell.

Chapter Two

Our Evolving Picture of the Universe

ALTHOUGH AS LATE AS THE TIME of Christopher Columbus it was common to find people who thought the earth was flat (and you can even find a few such people today), we can trace the roots of modern astronomy back to the ancient Greeks. Around 340 B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote a book called On the Heavens. In that book, Aristotle made good arguments for believing that the earth was a sphere rather than flat like a plate.

One argument was based on eclipses of the moon. Aristotle realized that these eclipses were caused by the earth coming between the sun and the moon. When that happened, the earth would cast its shadow on the moon, causing the eclipse. Aristotle noticed that the earth's shadow was always round. This is what you would expect if the earth was a sphere, but not if it was a flat disk. If the earth were a flat disk, its shadow would be round only if the eclipse happened at a time when the sun was directly under the center of the disk. At other times the shadow would be elongated-in the shape of an ellipse (an ellipse is an elongated circle).

The Greeks had another argument for the earth being round. If the earth were flat, you would expect a ship approaching from the horizon to appear first as a tiny, featureless dot. Then, as it sailed closer, you would gradually be able to make out more detail, such as its sails and hull. But that is not what happens. When a ship appears on the horizon, the first things you see are the ship's sails. Only later do you see its hull. The fact that a ship's masts, rising high above the hull, are the first part of the ship to poke up over the horizon is evidence that the earth is a ball.

The Greeks also paid a lot of attention to the night sky. By Aristotle's time, people had for centuries been recording how the lights in the night sky moved. They noticed that although almost all of the thousands of lights they saw seemed to move together across the sky, five of them (not counting the moon) did not. They would sometimes wander off from a regular east-west path and then double back. These lights were named planets-the Greek word for "wanderer." The Greeks observed only five planets because five are all we can see with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Today we know why the planets take such unusual paths across the sky: though the stars hardly move at all in comparison to our solar system, the planets orbit the sun, so their motion in the night sky is much more complicated than the motion of the distant stars.

Aristotle thought that the earth was stationary and that the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars moved in circular orbits about the earth. He believed this because he felt, for mystical reasons, that the earth was the center of the universe and that circular motion was the most perfect. In the second century a.d. another Greek, Ptolemy, turned this idea into a complete model of the heavens. Ptolemy was passionate about his studies. "When I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course," he wrote, "my feet no longer touch the earth."

In Ptolemy's model, eight rotating spheres surrounded the earth. Each sphere was successively larger than the one before it, something like a Russian nesting doll. The earth was at the center of the spheres. What lay beyond the last sphere was never made very clear, but it certainly was not part of mankind's observable universe. Thus the outermost sphere was a kind of boundary, or container, for the universe. The stars occupied fixed positions on that sphere, so when it rotated, the stars stayed in the same positions relative to each other and rotated together, as a group, across the sky, just as we observe. The inner spheres carried the planets. These were not fixed to their respective spheres as the stars were, but moved upon their spheres in small circles called epicycles. As the planetary spheres rotated and the planets themselves moved upon their spheres, the paths they took relative to the earth were complex ones. In this way, Ptolemy was able to account for the fact that the observed paths of the planets were much more complicated than simple circles across the sky.

Ptolemy's model provided a fairly accurate system for predicting the positions of heavenly bodies in the sky. But in order to predict these positions correctly, Ptolemy had to make an assumption that the moon followed a path that sometimes brought it twice as close to the earth as at other times. And that meant that the moon ought sometimes to appear twice as big as at other times! Ptolemy recognized this flaw, but nevertheless his model was generally, although not universally, accepted. It was adopted by the Christian church as the picture of the universe that was in accordance with scripture, for it had the great advantage that it left lots of room outside the sphere of fixed stars for heaven and hell.

Another model, however, was proposed in 1514 by a Polish priest, Nicolaus Copernicus. (At first, perhaps for fear of being branded a heretic by his church, Copernicus circulated his model anonymously.) Copernicus had the revolutionary idea that not all heavenly bodies must orbit the earth. In fact, his idea was that the sun was stationary at the center of the solar system and that the earth and planets moved in circular orbits around the sun. Like Ptolemy's model, Copernicus's model worked well, but it did not perfectly match observation. Since it was much simpler than Ptolemy's model, though, one might have expected people to embrace it. Yet nearly a century passed before this idea was taken seriously. Then two astronomers-the German Johannes Kepler and the Italian Galileo Galilei-started publicly to support the Copernican theory.

In 1609, Galileo started observing the night sky with a telescope, which had just been invented. When he looked at the planet Jupiter, Galileo found that it was accompanied by several small satellites or moons that orbited around it. This implied that everything did not have to orbit directly around the earth, as Aristotle and Ptolemy had thought. At the same time, Kepler improved Copernicus's theory, suggesting that the planets moved not in circles but in ellipses. With this change the predictions of the theory suddenly matched the observations. These events were the death blows to Ptolemy's model.

Though elliptical orbits improved Copernicus's model, as far as Kepler was concerned they were merely a makeshift hypothesis. That is because Kepler had preconceived ideas about nature that were not based on any observation: like Aristotle, he simply believed that ellipses were less perfect than circles. The idea that planets would move along such imperfect paths struck him as too ugly to be the final truth. Another thing that bothered Kepler was that he could not make elliptical orbits consistent with his idea that the planets were made to orbit the sun by magnetic forces. Although he was wrong about magnetic forces being the reason for the planets' orbits, we have to give him credit for realizing that there must be a force responsible for the motion. The true explanation for why the planets orbit the sun was provided only much later, in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, probably the most important single work ever published in the physical sciences.

In Principia, Newton presented a law stating that all objects at rest naturally stay at rest unless a force acts upon them, and described how the effects of force cause an object to move or change an object's motion. So why do the planets move in ellipses around the sun? Newton said that a particular force was responsible, and claimed that it was the same force that made objects fall to the earth rather than remain at rest when you let go of them. He named that force gravity (before Newton the word gravity meant only either a serious mood or a quality of heaviness). He also invented the mathematics that showed numerically how objects react when a force such as gravity pulls on them, and he solved the resulting equations. In this way he was able to show that due to the gravity of the sun, the earth and other planets should move in an ellipse-just as Kepler had predicted! Newton claimed that his laws applied to everything in the universe, from a falling apple to the stars and planets. It was the first time in history anybody had explained the motion of the planets in terms of laws that also determine motion on earth, and it was the beginning of both modern physics and modern astronomy.

Without the concept of Ptolemy's spheres, there was no longer any reason to assume the universe had a natural boundary, the outermost sphere. Moreover, since stars did not appear to change their positions apart from a rotation across the sky caused by the earth spinning on its axis, it became natural to suppose that the stars were objects like our sun but very much farther away. We had given up not only the idea that the earth is the center of the universe but even the idea that our sun, and perhaps our solar system, were unique features of the cosmos. This change in worldview represented a profound transition in human thought: the beginning of our modern scientific understanding of the universe.

Chapter Three

The Nature of a Scientific Theory

IN ORDER TO TALK ABOUT THE nature of the universe and to discuss such questions as whether it has a beginning or an end, you have to be clear about what a scientific theory is. We shall take the simpleminded view that a theory is just a model of the universe, or a restricted part of it, and a set of rules that relate quantities in the model to observations that we make. It exists only in our minds and does not have any other reality (whatever that might mean). A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements. It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations. For example, Aristotle believed Empedocles's theory that everything was made out of four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. This was simple enough but did not make any definite predictions. On the other hand, Newton's theory of gravity was based on an even simpler model, in which bodies attracted each other with a force that was proportional to a quantity called their mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Yet it predicts the motions of the sun, the moon, and the planets to a high degree of accuracy.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     xi
Foreword     1
Thinking About the Universe     3
Our Evolving Picture of the Universe     6
The Nature of a Scientific Theory     13
Newton's Universe     19
Relativity     26
Curved Space     38
The Expanding Universe     50
The Big Bang, Black Holes, and the Evolution of the Universe     68
Quantum Gravity     86
Wormholes and Time Travel     104
The Forces of Nature and the Unification of Physics     117
Conclusion     138
Albert Einstein     143
Galileo Galilei     145
Isaac Newton     147
Glossary     149
Index     155
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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 112 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 13, 2009

    A Briefer History of Time Review

    This is a very informative book. It is easy to understand as it gives plenty examples and pictures to help you understand the difficult concepts in the book. This book has helped me to understand theories in physics and about time. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about physics and about the beginning of time.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A mind capturing read

    I couldn't put it down! I read it like a thriller novel, because that's what it was like for me. It brought together some ideas I've struggled with since I heard about them from Einstein's biography. It also raised other questions, so I've gone on to read Brian Greene too. I wouldn't recommend reading this during a time you require great sleep because if you have any questions about the world we live in, you won't put this book down!

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2011

    Quite Interesting

    A Brief History of Time
    By Stephen Hawking
    232 pages

    This book by Stephen Hawking is a book someone should read because you become well informed and it opens your mind to new subjects, theories, and ideas. What Hawkings' did throughout the book that I really enjoyed was the fact that he explained, in depth, his theories and ideas. His explanations fascinated me and I enjoyed reading about his personal thoughts and opinions. In my opinion, every once in a while Hawkings' would ramble on and disengage from his main points when he explained his thoughts. I thought that was irrelevant and completely detracted from the content of the book.
    I did not enjoy this book very much. It was a bit too technical for my liking. The book was engaging but it did puzzle me at certain points, for example, explaining his theories. The age group this book is appropriate for is 20 year olds and over. This book could be difficult to understand for many people under that age because the theories and ideas are so detailed and in depth that it could be difficult to understand his concepts. For 20 year olds and over, they would be much more educated to understand and fully grasp his concepts. Other information I would feel valuable for someone to know when reading a review of this book is to know your sciences, because it could really help you figure out some theories and it will make more sense to you.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2007

    A good read

    This is a good book. It has a ton of stuff in it. Almost too much stuff. Read it slowly because some the concepts aren't explained in great detail because the book is fairly short. It is a summary of time and how it began, as well, it gives a summary of the theory of relativity. If you want to learn about black holes and wormholes in space, this would be a good book to read. Stephen Hawking did a good job writing this book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2011

    A great read and reference!

    With the onset of so many books and videos on astronomy, our Universe, and the study of Physics, Dr. Hawking brings it all together in a nicely illustrated and condensed version of his landmark publication A Brief History of Time. A Breifer History of Time is delightful for those with technical expertise as well as those with a casual curiosity. Reading this book will possibly change the way you see our world, beyond, and our Universe.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2013

    Very interesting read and the ideas are portrayed ina very pract

    Very interesting read and the ideas are portrayed ina very practical manner. The reader does not need to be a physics or math whizz to tag along to this great book. Comes with awesome illustrations to explain the bizarre ideas!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2011

    good book

    A great follow up to the original books

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2005

    far from the truth about universe

    The book describes essential problems in the understanding of the universe. Entities like dark matter, dark energy, strings and many other oddities of modern science are discussed in one incomplete picture of the universe. Nature cannot be that whimsical and complicated. It has to be very simple at fundamental level and then to complicate in our minds. If you are looking for an elegant and complete picture of the universe then you may read Eugene Savov¿s Theory of Interaction the Simplest Explanation of Everything. The theory of interaction reveals the origin of the universe, space bodies and mind in terms of found patterns of unifying interaction.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2013

    To #14

    If everything is so simple, write out every law of physics in 1 equation. Oh wait-you cant. Thes are all theories, so they could be true or false. If every thing was so simple, we would have found it all out by now.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2011

    Amazing

    Great read!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2011

    Hi

    Hi

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 3, 2011

    Yes, Brilliant as in anything HAWKING>!

    Very worthwhile read for any layman. I am currently reading alongside this, "The Beginning of Infinity", also by a famous phycisist, Deutsch....Hawking has simplified his explanation as much as possible and has done p[erfectlywell for those of us who are novices.

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  • Posted June 12, 2011

    Good+if+u+like+space+and+have+questions+how+it+all+works%2C

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 22, 2011

    good read

    written for the common person. A good read for anyone interested in the latest theories in physics.

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    Posted January 3, 2014

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    Posted April 20, 2011

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    Posted April 19, 2011

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    Posted April 4, 2011

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    Posted June 14, 2011

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    Posted December 30, 2010

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