Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science

Overview

Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most famous scientist since Einstein. Although his body is confined to a wheelchair, his brilliant work on black holes, the Big Bang, and quantum cosmology has already guaranteed his reputation as a towering figure in modern physics. This superb biography interweaves the events of Hawking's life with concise and cogent explanations of the theories that have brought us breathtakingly close to piercing the ultimate mysteries of time, space, and ...
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Overview

Stephen Hawking is perhaps the most famous scientist since Einstein. Although his body is confined to a wheelchair, his brilliant work on black holes, the Big Bang, and quantum cosmology has already guaranteed his reputation as a towering figure in modern physics. This superb biography interweaves the events of Hawking's life with concise and cogent explanations of the theories that have brought us breathtakingly close to piercing the ultimate mysteries of time, space, and matter.

A definitive biography of a remarkable man and a brilliant scientist. Scarcely able to move or speak as a result of motor-neuron disease, Hawking has vastly expanded our scientific knowledge and made his discoveries accessible to the layperson in his bestselling book A Brief History of Time.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
A successful merger of biography and physics...—Time Magazine
From The Critics
Respecting American physicist Hawking's wishes to focus on his science rather than his personal life and disability, science writers White and Gribbin update their biography, first published by Viking in 1992. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452269880
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/1/1993
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.36 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.71 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 The Day Galileo Died 1
2 Classical Cosmology 21
3 Going Up 40
4 Doctors and Doctorates 56
5 From Black Holes to the Big Bang 74
6 Marriage and Fellowship 87
7 Singular Solutions 104
8 The Breakthrough Years 117
9 When Black Holes Explode 135
10 The Foothills of Fame 152
11 Back to the Beginning 175
12 Science Celebrity 187
13 When the Universe Has Babies 207
14 A Brief History of Time 220
15 The End of Physics? 252
16 Hollywood, Fame, and Fortune 265
17 A Brief History of Time Travel 292
18 Stephen Hawking: Superstar 304
Notes 322
About the Authors 329
Index 331
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Interviews & Essays

The Collaborator
Why do I write so many books in collaboration with other authors? It's not that it makes things easier (although sometimes it does), and it's not for the money, because you only get half as much as if you wrote on your own. And yet, at the last count I have worked with a full dozen other people on various books. The reason is twofold -- it keeps your nose to the grindstone, and you might learn something along the way.

Douglas Adams once described the writing process as "banging your forehead against the keyboard until the keys are covered in blood." The creative process is hell. But the reward is that after you have been through the hell, you understand the subject better than you ever did before. I guess (although I have no personal experience) that it is like mountain climbing -- the climb itself may be murder, but the view from the peak is breathtaking. You learn more if you have someone to work with (and pinch things from), and along the way you have someone to bitch at when the going gets tough.

My most frequent, and longest-suffering, collaborator is my wife. In particular, we have worked together on books for young readers, where the climb is only made possible at all thanks to the skills of my coauthor, whose day job involves teaching children with reading difficulties, and who knows everything there is to know about expressing thoughts clearly and simply. First, I have to understand the subject myself. Then, I have to make her understand. And then, between us we express it in language that she feels is suitable for the intended audience (this involves a certain amount of "creative tension," which I shall draw a veil over here). And only then, it turns out, do I really understand it myself. This is a totally different process from writing about the same sort of things for adults, who can be assumed to have some initial interest in the subject, or they wouldn't be reading the book at all. For ten-year-olds, no prior knowledge can be assumed. But the essence of collaboration is still the same -- I have learned something for myself.

Which is why I started writing books at all, because I wanted to know about things that were not easily available in books I could understand. For years, I went around telling anyone who would listen that ideas like relativity theory and quantum physics ought to be explained to nonscientists, to give them a feel for the excitement of modern science, and an insight into what their tax dollars are being spent on. And then I got the response, "OK, do it." It proved harder than I thought, but I got there in the end, often with the help of an expert coauthor.

Of course, there are different kinds of expertise. In my collaborations with Michael White, for example, I have been the scientific "expert," and he has been the one who introduced me to a new kind of communication, as befits a former member of a bestselling pop group (the Thomson Twins). It is much easier than in most of my other collaborations to tell who did what in those scientific biographies of Hawking, Einstein, and Darwin -- more or less alternating chapters on life and science provide a pretty obvious clue, and it would never have occurred to me to include Shirley MacLaine and Tears for Fears in the story. But as with all the collaborations, the whole ends up being greater than the sum of its parts, which is another rewarding reason for the enterprise.

The most rewarding of these collaborations (in all but financial terms) are those for young people. The rewards are not immediate, because I have no contact with the readers. But we have been beavering away at this task for just long enough now that we occasionally receive gratifying email communications from 16-18-year-olds who say that they were turned on to science by reading one or other of our books, and are now planning a degree, and a career studying black holes or DNA or something of the kind. Gratifying, but an awesome responsibility; I look forward with some trepidation to the emails I may be getting from those same people in five or six years' time. John Gribbin

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