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Stephen Hawking is no ordinary scientist. With a career that began over thirty years ago at Cambridge University, he has managed to do more than perhaps any other scientist to broaden our basic understanding of the universe. His theoretical work on black holes and his progress in ...
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Stephen Hawking is no ordinary scientist. With a career that began over thirty years ago at Cambridge University, he has managed to do more than perhaps any other scientist to broaden our basic understanding of the universe. His theoretical work on black holes and his progress in advancing our knowledge of the origin and nature of the cosmos have been groundbreaking—if not downright revolutionary.
Stephen Hawking has also spent much of his adult life confined to a wheelchair, a victim of ALS, a degenerative motor neuron disease. Clearly his physical limitations have done nothing to confine him intellectually. He simply never allowed his illness to hinder his scientific development. In fact, many would argue that his liberation from the routine chores of life has allowed him to focus his efforts more keenly on his science.
Hawking certainly would have been remarkable for his cutting edge work in theoretical physics alone. However, he has also managed to popularize science in a way unparalleled by other scientists of his stature. He became a household name, achieving almost cult-like fame, with the release of his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time. Although steeped in the potentially overwhelming complexities of cosmology, he succeeded in selling millions of copies to audiences eager to learn even some of what he has to offer.
Science writers White and Gribbin have skillfully painted a portrait of an indefatigable genius and a scientific mind that seemingly knows no bounds. Knitting together clear explanations of Hawking’s science with a detailed personal history that is both balanced as well as sensitive, we come to know—and appreciate—both.
As Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Universe in a Nutshell, hits the best-seller lists, it is the ideal time for readers to learn more about this remarkable man and his vast body of accomplishments.
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.
|1||The Day Galileo Died||1|
|4||Doctors and Doctorates||56|
|5||From Black Holes to the Big Bang||74|
|6||Marriage and Fellowship||87|
|8||The Breakthrough Years||117|
|9||When Black Holes Explode||135|
|10||The Foothills of Fame||152|
|11||Back to the Beginning||175|
|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|
|About the Authors||329|
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