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The Grand Design Paperback – 18 Aug 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (18 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 8129119714
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553819229
  • ASIN: 0553819224
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (193 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This is mind-blowing stuff" (The Sunday Times)

Book Description

New answers to the ultimate questions of life from the world's most famous living scientist.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 112 people found the following review helpful By David Love on 7 Oct 2010
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Hawking's new book, "The Grand Design" (written together with Leonard Mlodinow), is his first popular science book for about ten years. It seems to have created quite a stir in the non-scientific press, although in reality the book is very much in line with our latest theories in cosmology. Science began with the ancient Greeks, and the book starts off with a summary of their ideas. After a gap of some 1,400 years, a scientific approach to the Universe was revived by men such as Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Descartes and Newton. Hawking goes on to describe the history of scientific advances since then, and introduces ideas of what is meant by reality and what constitutes a scientific theory. He introduces us to the mysteries of quantum mechanics and relativity, and explains how our understanding of the Big Bang is growing as a result of our studies of the cosmic microwave background radiation.

But the key part of the book comes when Hawking describes something called M-theory, the leading candidate for the "theory of everything" which it is hoped will unite the two (currently incompatible, but highly successful) theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Both M-theory and other strands of evidence increasingly point to the conclusion that our Universe is not, after all, the only universe. The implication of these latest theories is that there are billions - and probably an infinite number - of other universes, each with their own physical laws and physical constants. This is the theory of the Multiverse. At a stroke, the theory explains why there are features of our own Universe which make it suitable for life; this is simply because we could only ever have evolved in the tiny minority of universes with the right set of physical laws.

All in all, a fascinating read. If you want to give a mind-blowing Christmas present to somebody, this is the one.
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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful By CP on 18 Feb 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Philosophy is dead", the authors declare very early on, and then roundly prove over the next few chapters why they could have done with the services of a good philosopher. Hawking is known, of course, for his ground-breaking science, but not for his analysis of the history of knowledge or the social progress of our culture. Unfortunately, a substantial part of this book is dedicated to those topics, and makes for a short-sighted and naive read. Once the writing turns to actual science, its value greatly increases: the major elements of relativity and quantum mechanics are summed up simply and clearly, then form the basis for explanations of newer work such as M-Theory. Hawking has written better about his (and others') work, but if you're looking for the most up-to-date and/or easily read version, then this book is worth its very reasonable cover price. It's a short and superficial book, however, so if you're looking for anything in-depth you are likely to be disappointed.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S. Meadows on 4 Nov 2010
Format: Hardcover
The inside cover of the book states that it is:

"A succinct, startling and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform - and provoke - like no other."

Well, it is most certainly succinct, well illustrated and thought provoking. Indeed, the book is perhaps a little too succinct. It is certainly very short, and it doesn't take long to read. The writing style is very clear, though some of the humour does have the feeling of having been inserted periodically as an afterthought, to maintain some levity in the book.

The book is a mixture of bold statements about the current state of theoretical research and an overview of historical developments in physics over the last hundred years (with some going further back than that). One of the weak points of the book is that it lacks references. This makes it very difficult to distinguish what is widely-accepted, evidenced scientific theory and what is optimistic speculation. At one point in the book, the authors state: "M-theory is the only candidate for a complete theory of the universe." I would certainly take issue with that, given that it is certainly not a universally accepted opinion. Any reader wanting to gain an alternative opinion on some of the bold assertions made about M-theory would do well to read Lee Smolin's The Trouble With Physics.

Probably the most interesting claim in the book comes at the start, with the declaration that "Philosophy is dead." This claim is never convincingly argued, and in fact the authors go on to employ certain philosophical ideas in pursuit of their goals. The entire argument of the book hinges on the acceptance of "model-dependent realism.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Stephen G. York on 16 Nov 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As has been pointed out by others, this book scores a spectacular own goal early on by proclaiming that philosophy is dead and then going on to indulge in a lot of metaphysics. John Lennox's book 'God and Stephen Hawking' takes apart most of Hawking and Mlodinow's shakier speculations pretty thoroughly, if rather repetitively. (Some of the reviews of Lennox's book by committed atheists and scientific determinists were nearly as long as the book itself, but to my mind failed to refute Lennox's own refutations, at least the important ones). The problem with the Hawking book is that you don't learn much about cutting-edge physics from it unless you know a lot of the science background in detail already. It appears to be written for scientific ignoramuses like me but contains so many gaps in reasoning and so many straight assertions that it doesn't end up being very convincing. The overall effect is that of a brilliant professor galloping through his field of study in a lecture to impress an audience of raw undergraduates; the addition of cartoons and feeble humour reinforces this impression. The illustrations are bland and add nothing to the arguments - they decorate but illustrate nothing much. I think a book as short as this one, even if written by the greatest scientist of our age, is unlikely to teach a non-scientist very much, but of course if you are happy to accept everything on trust (ignoring the fact that not all of the scientific world accepts all of the theories being expounded) then you may come away feeling that you have learnt something. Personally I would want to understand far more of the detail, and see some of the counter-arguments acknowledged and discussed, before I was anywhere near ready to accept the conclusion that the universe created itself out of nothing.Read more ›
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