The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time

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Overview

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity leads to two remarkable predictions: first, that the ultimate destiny of many massive stars is to undergo gravitational collapse and to disappear from view, leaving behind a 'black hole' in space; and secondly, that there will exist singularities in space-time itself. These singularities are places where space-time begins or ends, and the presently known laws of physics break down. They will occur inside black holes, and in the past are what might be construed as the beginning of the universe. To show how these predictions arise, the authors discuss the General Theory of Relativity in the large. Starting with a precise formulation of the theory and an account of the necessary background of differential geometry, the significance of space-time curvature is discussed and the global properties of a number of exact solutions of Einstein's field equations are examined. The theory of the causal structure of a general space-time is developed, and is used to study black holes and to prove a number of theorems establishing the inevitability of singualarities under certain conditions. A discussion of the Cauchy problem for General Relativity is also included in this 1973 book.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking made black holes palatable for the masses with his 1988 book A Brief History of Time, which had The New York Times pointing out that he is “bravely taking some of the first, though tentative, steps toward quantizing the early universe.”

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

Table of Contents

Preface; 1. The role of gravity; 2. Differential geometry; 3. General relativity; 4. The physical significance of curvature; 5. Exact solutions; 6. Causal structure; 7. The Cauchy problem in General Relativity; 8. Space-time singularities; 9. Gravitational collapse and black holes; 10. The initial singularity in the universe; Appendixes; References; Notation; Index.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2003

    Excellent coverage of theory

    This text provides an excellent coverage of the theory. First published around 1969, it naturally neglects the last 30 yrs. of theorizing on the subject. It does, however, provide a great foundation for examining more recent theories and additions to superstring theory (singularities), 11+dimensional supergravity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2001

    Dry but outstanding...

    This book is by no means the BEST book on general relativity that I've known. It is better than Misner-Thorne-Wheeler's (MTW) classic 'GRAVITATION'. Although the presentation is dry, but the overall content is very good. This book describes the general relativity from the topological viewpoint (unlike MTW that uses purely differential geometry and tensors). The advantage of topological viewpoint is in the discussion of global structure which finds wealth applications for the structure of black holes. However, in order to understand this book I suggest that one must read MTW first to get a general overview of general relativity and its mathematical aspects. This book should be on the shelf of every graduate student and theoretical physicist together with Robert Wald's 'General Relativity'.

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