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The Universe In A Nutshell Hardcover – Illustrated, 5 Nov 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Press (5 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0593048156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0593048153
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2 x 25.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 18,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stephen Hawking is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. His other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universe and The Universe in a Nutshell.

In 1963, Hawking contracted motor neurone disease and was given two years to live. Yet he went on to Cambridge to become a brilliant researcher and Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College. Since 1979 he has held the post of Lucasian Professor at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663. Professor Hawking has over a dozen honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a Member of the US National Academy of Science. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein.

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Universe in a Nutshell attempts to address the relative difficulty of Hawking's first foray into popular science, A Brief History of Time. While this sold in its millions, few readers got past the first few chapters. Helpfully, this new work is full of beautifully prepared colour illustrations and decorations, and has a "tree-like" structure, so that readers can skip from chapter to chapter without losing the thread.

In 200 highly illustrated pages, Hawking is pushing the frontiers of popular physics beyond relativity and quantum theory, past superstring theory and imaginary time, into a dizzying new world of M-theory and branes. It's a colossal venture--one Hawking is uniquely qualified to undertake--but it is crammed into far too small a space. When you consider the other rather good tomes being written on the nature of consciousness these days, the decision to limit The Universe in a Nutshell to the dictates of publishing rather than to the natural parameters of the material is an unfortunate one.

Worse, Hawking tries to paper over the complexity of his field. He rushes over the very concepts he should be helping us understand, only to belabour simple ideas, often by means of flip Star Trek metaphors. Also unfortunately, the illustrations--by turns trivial and opaque--mirror the faults of the text. The author's name alone will guarantee sales, but the book we long for--the long, ruminative, poetic celebration of Hawking's world--seems as far away as ever. --Simon Ings


A Brief History of Time has now sold an estimated nine million copies worldwide - something of a hard act for its author to follow. In what is being promoted as the 'sequel' to that book, Professor Hawking gives an account of his attempt to combine Einstein's Theory of Relativity with Richard Feynman's idea of multiple histories, in order to reach the grail of a Theory of Everything - or big TOE, as it's charmingly named. This is a book about superstrings and p-branes, holography and supergravity, about how the 'cosmic seed' from which our universe derived was as small as a nut. The publishers are not yet releasing much text, but enough to see that it will be a fascinating (if challenging) read. And one enhanced throughout with 200 striking full colour illustrations and jazzed-up diagrams.

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
ALBERT EINSTEIN, THE DISCOVERER OF THE SPECIAL AND general theories of relativity, was born in Ulm, Germany, in 1879, but the following year the family moved to Munich, where his father, Hermann, and uncle, Jakob, set up a small and not very successful electrical business. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Johnston VINE VOICE on 10 April 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the long-awaited follow-up to "A Brief History of Time". It's quite amazing how some of the ideas around the Physics of the very large and very small have developed in recent years, and Stephen Hawking is determined to communicate them to us.
He realises that this requires diagrams and analogies, since the mathematics is getting ever more forbidding. As a result, unlike a lot of books on modern Physics and cosmology, this one focuses on pictures and spatial representations. It's beautifully illustrated throughout, almost a coffee-table book. That said, Hawking hasn't neglected the text either - it's clear, concise and frequently humourous.
The book starts with the key ideas developed in the earlier part of the 20th century, Relativity and Quantum Theory, but in the context of more recent experiments and observations, which makes it feel more contemporary than more historical accounts. The second chapter explains how these developed through to the 1980s, summarising the various attempts at unified "Theories of Everything". The book's central chapter investigates what we now know about how the Universe formed and developed, presenting a lot of quite new findings and concepts.
After this, the going starts to get harder, introducing concepts like time travel through black holes, and the physics of the strangely-named "p-branes". You may need to read these several times, and understanding is by no means guaranteed, but Hawking rightly focuses on the key implications rather than the models themselves.
The penultimate chapter is a bit of a non-sequiteur, looking at the evolution of human and artificial intelligence. It's a fascinating subject, well described and clearly of great interest to Hawking, but doesn't quite fit with the rest of the book.
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48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Feb. 2002
Format: Hardcover
in this colourful book.
Hawking attempts to correct his heavily linguistic approach of 'a brief history' in a well thought-out attempt at presenting a more coherent image of our universe and our current level of understanding of it. In order to achieve this Hawking quickly guides the reader through some of the complex theories using careful and well-thought out language and cartoons and graphics that support the text along with reasonable summaries of the main findings. He is also keen to point out and highlight the relevance of each area in our overall understanding of the universe.
Many of these concepts are however, despite Hawkins best intentions difficult and abstract being very different from the normal classical experience of humans living in the macroscopic world. Quantum theory, P-Branes, Spin Theory, Sum of Histories, string theory are all dealt with here. Hawking avoids the use of Mathematics in explaining these concepts but it is still inevitable that some of the theories and concepts are not suited to this light approach - often complicated points that require more background comprehension in the subject remain difficult to comprehend. Occasionally one is left puzzled by abstract sections that are not well supported in the rest of the book.
However not delving too much into any one branch or area -does have its advantages; conscieness keeps the various branches connected and allow Hawkings overall image of the universe to form in the readers consciousness. This together with Hawkins frequent good humour also appear to capture the most important aspects of each area. If one can subdue the frustration of not fully comprehending some sections and trust to Hawkings guidance, one is carefully guided to a current cosmological understanding of the universe.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By on 3 Jan. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is targeted at laymen who want to understand our developing knowledge of the fundamental laws governing the way our universe works. In this context it is only a qualified success, like its predecessor, "A Brief History of Time".
The publishers (or Hawking himself) have aimed this at the coffee table audience and as such it is rich on illustrations and photography but disappointingly brief on text. A book with three times the text and a few less illustrations may have reduced sales and added a few quid to the price but would have left a lot more informed customers.
However, most of what there is of it is very good, particularly on subjects not covered in his original book.
The main reason why this book is in the bestseller lists, particularly in the UK, is the mystique surrounding Hawking's name. I am sure Einstein would not be able to write as elegantly and persuasively as Hawking but in terms of conceptual scientific breakthoughs there is no comparison.
In short, if a layman wants to understand cosmology, astrophysics etc. there are better writers out there. Alternatively, if he or she wants to enjoy reading the thoughts of the great scientists of the twentieth century then Hawking would be the first to admit he is not at the top of this list.
If you want a combination of the two with pretty pictures, this could be the one for you!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 2 Aug. 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book with magnificent illustrations. In fact one can not resist to buy it when you see it on the bookshelves. The name of Stephen Hawking increases your expectations even further.
The first chapter about Einstein is well written and easy to understand but then everything suddenly goes haywire. Hawking tries unsuccesfully to explain very complex ideas in simple terms with the help of illustrations. I have read many books (some that even include mathematics) on this subject matter and even with this background I found it difficlt to grasp imaginary time and p-branes.
If you want nice pictures and more informative text then buy Space - Our Final Fontier and if you want to dig in deeper and really try and understand string theory then buy the Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.
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