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The Nature of Space and Time (Princeton Science Library)

The Nature of Space and Time (Princeton Science Library) [Kindle Edition]

Stephen Hawking , Roger Penrose
2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Amazon Review

Who doesn't love a good argument? When physics heavyweights Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose delivered three sets of back-and-forth lectures capped by a final debate at Cambridge's Isaac Newton Institute, the course of modern cosmological thinking was at stake. As it happens, The Nature of Space and Time, which collects these remarks, suggests that little has changed from the days when Einstein challenged Bohr by refusing to believe that God plays dice. The maths is more abstruse, the arguments more refined, but the argument still hinges on whether our physical theories should be expected to model reality or merely predict measurements.

Hawking, clever and playful as usual, sides with Bohr and the Copenhagen interpretation, and builds a strong case for quantum gravity. Penrose, inevitably a bit dry in comparison, shares Einstein's horror at such intuition-blasting thought experiments as Schrödinger's long-suffering cat--and scores just as many points for general relativity. The maths is tough going for lay readers, but a few leaps of faith will carry them through to some deeply thought-provoking rhetoric. Though no questions find final answers in The Nature of Space and Time, the quality of discourse should be enough to satisfy the scientifically curious. --Rob Lightner


"This elegant little volume provides a clear account of two approaches to some of the greatest unsolved problems of gravitation and cosmology."--John Barrow, New Scientist

"A debate between Hawking and Penrose . . . raises the reader's expectations of a lively interaction, and this is fully bourne in the transcribed discussion. . . . Hawking's effervescent sense of humour frequently enlivens the text."--Joseph Silk, Times Higher Education

Praise for Princeton's previous editions:: "If there were such a thing as the World Professional Heavyweight Theory Debating Society, this would be the title bout."--Christopher Dornan, Toronto Globe & Mail

Praise for Princeton's previous editions: "This is a very courteous and intellectually stimulating exchange between two first-rate minds."--Library Journal

Praise for Princeton's previous editions: "This is an interesting book to read now, but it promises to become an even more interesting book for future generations of physicists."--Robert M. Wald, Science

Praise for Princeton's previous editions: "As well as providing an accurate scientific record of the lectures, the text has lost none of the drama of the original occasion, which stemmed from the almost antithetical views of the two protagonists on almost everything except the classical theory of general relativity."--Gary Gibbons, Physics World

Praise for Princeton's previous editions: "I found great satisfaction and not inconsiderable benefit from my efforts. . . . The clarity and brilliance of Hawking's logic would break through in simple straightforward terms. . . . This provided a real thrill."--Lucy Horwitz, Boston Book Review

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2207 KB
  • Print Length: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (8 Feb 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003VPWWC0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 2.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #435,021 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

2.5 out of 5 stars
2.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 59 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Any popular science book MUST be accurate and not hide serious scientific controversies; if this rule is not followed the book-buying public is being misled. Apart from the elementary, undergraduate level errors in thermodynamics,(e.g. the first law of thermodynamics on page 24 is NOT the first law, nor is it a combination of the first and second laws due to a sign error; the Helmholtz free energy on page 50 is NOT the Helmholtz free energy again due to a sign error),the statement on page 135 that all Einstein needed not to go fishing after 1925 was 'Stephen's discovery, fifty-five years later, of black hole radiation', might be felt by some offensive! Hawking's great surprise, on page 43, that black hole radiation emission was exactly thermal with a temperature derived from the Bekenstein-Hawking expression for black hole entropy in terms of the area of the horizon is dubious because it has to correspond to the entropy of black body radiation, which it doesn't. It should be noted also that, as has been pointed out on several occasions, the above-mentioned Bekenstein-Hawking entropy expression is itself dubious because it leads to possible violations of the second law of thermodynamics. The above are merely examples which certainly raise grave doubts concerning the worth of this book as a serious contribution to popular scientific literature.
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9 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading 29 Nov 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
...This book strives to answer "unanswerable" questions, and succeeds admirably. This is NOT a textbook, but fascinating fodder for the intelligent layman. I enjoyed it thoroughly, and would recommend it highly.
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5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very difficult to read 13 Jun 2008
The introduction to each of the chapters have some very interesting ideas. However, this book would be very difficult for even an intelligent layman who has not had a background in Physics. Therefore, not really for the general reader.
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Kip S. Thorne instead 17 Aug 2010
A Kid's Review
Hey, if you want a great, scientifically accurate and at the same time accessible introduction to the topic, read the Black Holes and Time Warps book by Kip Thorne. That book is much, much better than this one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A debate between two strong personalities in physics 5 Aug 2003
By Charles Ashbacher - Published on
The current understanding of the physical structure of the universe is bipolar. There is Einstein's theory of relativity, which explains the macroscopic behavior of the universe to many places to the right of the decimal point. At the other end of the size spectrum, there is the quantum theory of fields, which explains the observed behavior of fundamental particles to many places to the right of the decimal point. Although one should always be very reluctant to state such a position, the resolution of this bipolar state into a unified one may be the last, great discovery of physics.
The purpose of this book is to present a debate between Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose concerning the possibility of the issue being resolved, and in what manner. It is a series of six short lectures, three from each man and ends with a brief debate between them. These lectures are not for the general audience, as each lecturer assumes a fundamental understanding of general relativity and quantum theory. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of explanation, including diagrams, in the lectures. Therefore, it is possible to understand the material if you have a basic understanding of the two main topics. Without that, don't bother opening the book.
Of course, the issue is not resolved, as that must wait for a later date. It is interesting that Hawking tends to emphasize the points of difference, while Penrose goes to some length to describe how similar their positions are. Penrose continues with the position of Albert Einstein, in that he argues that quantum mechanics is not a final theory, but only the "gross" appearance of much subtler events. Hawking believes otherwise, arguing that the probabilistic features of quantum mechanics is the way nature does things, and there is no underlying mechanism yet to be discovered that will remove them.
The arguments are strong, yet unconvincing. Not due to their lack of power, but because they are made by two equally strong and forceful personalities. When two such powers collide, there is rarely resolution. Nevertheless, the debate sheds a great deal of light on the current state of thinking in physics, and points out some ways in which it may be resolved.
56 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars hold on for dear life 9 Mar 2002
By Bryan Erickson - Published on
This was an early attempt to capitalize on Hawking's commercial success with the Brief History. Roger Penrose, Hawking's PhD advisor, has also written some really fascinating books for lay readers on philosophical implications of physics such as on the nature of intelligence. However, combining the two in a debate, the form of this book, cancels out the reader-friendly accessibility of their solo works as their egos take charge and they try to outperform each other. It makes sense after the fact that if they're debating, they must be discussing matters on which they disagree, and since physics is so well settled and understood on all but the most esoteric and advanced questions, the subject matter of their disagreements must lie in that advanced realm. Of course, "advanced" is a vastly relative term to apply to physics, since many ordinary readers would balk at any physics material. But I have a degree in physics, albeit only a BS - and after the initial material I have to struggle to follow anything they're saying! They should stamp this book's cover with a caveat emptor; this is no "Brief History of Time" or "Elegant Universe." They even mention at the outset that they assume the reader has a basic understanding of physics, but these guys' idea of a basic understanding is a Ph.D. specializing in general relativity. Having said all that, the book still makes for heady reading from what I could pick up here and there, so it's a thrill if you're up to it.
42 of 53 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not Great 25 July 2000
By D. Harp - Published on
In spite of the errors mentioned in another review the discussion was fairly interesting but not as great a "debate" as I anticipated. I'd spend my money on Penrose's "The Emporer's New Mind" before this one. For those interested in Black Holes, Kip Thorne's "Black Holes and Time Warps ..." is exceptionally well written and rewarding for the reader. For the technically [mathematically] apt who wants an fascinating treatice on spacetime, try John Wheeler and Ignazio Ciufolini's book on Geometrodynamics (Princeton Univ. Press).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting 16 Nov 2010
By Light Pebble - Published on
I really enjoyed this book. It goes beyond the popular accounts of Hawking's and Penrose's ideas, without going into all the technical detail. You get to find out (sort of) why Hawking attributes entropy to black holes, and his explanation of why we don't see the galaxies in quantum superposition. And Penrose's ideas about twistors and quantizing them, and people's caveats about twistor theory.
It would help to be familiar with:
- Feynman integral over paths
- what is the action, and how it becomes a phase in quantum mechanics
- Euler characteristic
- special relativity, what spacelike, timelike and null mean
- Basic topology and analysis. Like what does "compact" imply.
- thermodynamic partition function
- contour integral in complex analysis
- what is a manifold
- how you find the expectation of an operator in quantum mechanics
- decoherence in quantum mechanics
- what is a conformal map
That sort of thing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, yet complex. 22 Feb 2007
By Peidyen - Published on
I found this to be a fascinating overview of some of the major issues in cosmology from both Hawking and Penroses point of view. What is amazing is the actual level of agreement between the two. Perhaps only the real physicists appreciate the nuances of their differences of opinion.

I would recommend this book for anyone who's gone to the trouble of picking up a basic understanding of relativity ( special and/or general ).

The math is not terrbily daunting in most places and you get a real overview for the big picture of the state of relativity and quantum gravity.
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