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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum mechanics and Relativity for Dummies!
This book explains the concepts introduced in the "Brief history of Time" more clearly with the use of outstanding illustrations and graphs. People that read the original edition will now be able to understand the somewhat cryptic notions using beautiful representations of the microcosm and macrocosm. A must for people interested in science.
Published on 18 April 2002

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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read - but not the best on the subject
I'm reading this book 20+ years after its initial publication. I suspect that had I read it 20 years ago my reaction would have been Wow! that's incredibly interesting stuff and given it 5 stars. 20 years is a long time in quantum physics and so a lot of the material was familiar to me, and I think, Simon Singh, in the Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of...
Published on 26 Feb. 2010 by M. Hadfield


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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quantum mechanics and Relativity for Dummies!, 18 April 2002
By A Customer
This book explains the concepts introduced in the "Brief history of Time" more clearly with the use of outstanding illustrations and graphs. People that read the original edition will now be able to understand the somewhat cryptic notions using beautiful representations of the microcosm and macrocosm. A must for people interested in science.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True Quality, 18 Jan. 2005
By A Customer
This is a truelly amazing book it has to be said. Anyone interested in space and time travel etc must buy this book. It's not one of those books you buy and then never read, you'll be hooked in no time. Before you know it you will be understanding how space really works. Explained with amazing clarity by the true master of space. A must buy for anyone.
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75 of 77 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hawking's universe, 1 Sept. 2005
By 
liam "liamr_spencer" (Morley, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes (Paperback)
Reading this book was a pleasure. I found the content presented in an understandable tongue that was story like in the way I found myself drawn into this history of the universe. Of course as a layman some of the science is beyond me, but only because i do not have the necessary background to fully comprehend the full implications of the theories discussed. However not once did I feel unable to continue with the book. It was well written, well researched and fully recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out what one of themost forefront physicists of ourtime has to say about the universe are part of.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good read, 12 Oct. 2004
I started out with low expectations, i thought i was going to be overwhelmed by incomprehensible facts and figures. I would be lying if i said its an easy book to read, its not, you have to give it maximum attention or else you will miss bits, but for such a complex topic Hawking does an excellent job of making it manageable for those of us who aren't geniuses yet are mildly interested in the subject, and the illustrations make it even more so.
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thinking Great Enough to Match the Cosmos, 18 Nov. 2003
By 
Patrick Shepherd "hyperpat" (San Jose, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
For anyone looking for a great, comprehensible explanation of the current state of the theories driving today's physics, this is it. Hawking has taken everything from the early history of thinking about the universe, its laws and composition, to the latest developments on black holes and string theory and placed it in a remarkably lucid set of explanations that detail the concepts behind all the mathematics that is so intimidating to most. This book is written without a single equation or a single statement on the order of "From the above, it is obvious that..." Instead, we proceed from the (comparatively) simple concepts about the everyday observable world of gravity, planets, and stars, travel carefully along the historical path of scientific observations as they modify and enhance the simple theories till we reach the world of quantum mechanics, the big bang, wormholes, and Grand Unified Field Theories. Each concept is fully explained, and with this expanded second edition, many of the concepts are beautifully illustrated with drawings and photographs.
And, possibly surprising to some people, as we enter the rarified air of today's theories, we see that the line between physics and philosophy is a very thin one, and ruminations about the origin of the Universe lead to discussions about God and fate. Here we see why Hawking is one of the premier physicists of today, as he obviously thinks in same kind of conceptual language that this book is written in, capable of looking at the meaning behind the mathematics and how it relates to us as humans.
Physics students and engineers may not find very much new here, but even they may benefit from the clear thought lines presented here, forcing a look at the meaning behind all the esoteric symbols that are their everyday working fare.
About the only quibble I had with this was Hawking's insistence on writing out very large/small numbers as million-million-million... While this was fine the first couple of times it becomes a little irritating in place of the standard 1,000,000... representation, or even better to use standard scientific notation.
A great elucidation of some of the most complex theories of the day, theories seemingly unrelated to your everyday life, but which are in fact the bedrock upon which today's technological marvels are based, and with implications that catch the nether regions of religion and the questions we all have about the meaning of life and the universe.
--- Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A picture explains a thousand words., 18 Jun. 2007
By 
John Hepburn (London) - See all my reviews
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I'm a scientist, but not a mathematician or a physicist. I have, like many people, an educated layman's knowledge of the universe and am keen to learn more.

As such, I rely on popular versions of some hard thinking to access and enjoy my interests. Reading through the original version, I hit treacle about two thirds through and (from what I'm told) missed a fine climax to an excellent book.

This is different. I've often thought that a great mind can tie together complex ideas and information in a clear and simple way.

This is the result of a truly great mind. It's beautifully written, simple, concise and (although it still requires an investment of thought and time) is far more accessible.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone interested in this area.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time is of the essence, 20 Dec. 2005
By 
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes (Paperback)
The mark of a true educator, which Stephen Hawking certainly is, is that he would take time (very valuable time, in his case) away from research and contemplation of the great mysteries of the universe to write a piece that would serve to help explain to the greater number of less-scientifically-adept persons the fruits and implications of modern scientific research from the cutting edge of physics. Hawking is ranked in popular and scientific thinking on a par with Einstein, and has motor neuron disability that severely restricts his ability to move, even to type or write, so, when he takes time to write something for general consumption, it is probably going to be worthwhile. And indeed, this is.
'Someone told me that each equation I included in the book would halve sales. I therefore resolved not to have any equations at all. In the end, however, I did put in one equation, Einstein's famous equation. I hope that this will not scare off half of my potential readers.'
Hawking begins by exploring the large scale structure of the universe (time being part of the `fabric' of the universe, in spacetime), the connections of space and time as a relatively new concept in thinking of the universe, and the way the universe `acts' (cosmological dynamics). From there, he explores the universe at a very basic level, as elementary particles and forces of nature, introducing quarks.
'There are a number of different varieties of quarks: there are thought to be at least six "flavours", which we call up, down, strange, charmed, bottom and top. Each flavour comes in three "colours", red, green and blue. ...We now know that neither the atoms nor the protons and neutrons within them are indivisible. So the question is: What are the truly elementary particles, the basic building blocks from which everything is made?'
From this discussion Hawking proceeds to black holes (and the fact that they aren't so black and permanent as popular belief holds them to be), which circles back around to the origin and destiny of the universe (which relates back to the large-scale structure), which ultimately brings us to time. This is where things begin to get interesting.
'When one tried to unify gravity with quantum mechanics, one had to introduce the idea of "imaginary" time. Imaginary time is indistinguishable from directions in space. If one can go north, one can turn around and head south; equally, if one can go forward in imaginary time, one ought to be able to turn around and go backward.'
Hawking explains variations of the thermodynamic, psychological and cosmological laws that regulate the direction of time's arrow, which, despite the theoretical flexibility of time with regard to scientific principles, always apparently goes in one direction.
Finally, Hawking explores the most current topic in theoretical physics: unification theories, which may or may not be a wild goose on the loose. Hawking also explores what such a grand unified theory (also called sometimes the `theory of everything') would mean, and what it wouldn't mean. But Hawking assures us that the quest for understanding is worthwhile even it won't be the final word on everything.
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113 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent introduction to difficult topics., 16 Sept. 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes (Paperback)
This is a truly excellent book. Why? Because it covers a wide range of cutting edge physics and makes it more or less understandable to everyone.
I notice that one reviewer has called this book "A Con Job" and goes on to ask "If he [Hawking] is such a great genius why do we never come across his name in the history of science? What major breakthroughs has he made? ... One reviewer admitted that he [Hawking] did not understand more than 60% of the book. I certainly didn't understand more than 10%". Well let's answer the first part shall we? Stephen Hawking provided a mathmatical proof for the big-bang theory and has done extensive research into the workings of black-holes. Are these not major breakthroughs? I certainally think so. The fact that the reviwer understood less than 10% of the content perhaps says more about his intelligence that the quality of the book.
The book is fairly short (240 pages) and this is to its credit - it is long enough to introduce and explain difficult concepts, but short enough not to bore you.
All in all, this is an great book - give it a try!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and understandable, 9 Oct. 2013
By 
I have heard many people complain that this book is impossible to read, that you'd need be a physicist to understand it. This is true in some sense as the first few chapters will be a lot more enjoyable if you have a basic knowledge of relativity and QM, but frankly you could attain this by watching youtube videos.

The book itself is truly fascinating. As someone who has read many popular physics books before, I will say the explanations of concepts such as the uncertainty principle and the curvature of spacetime are the easiest to understand that I've ever read. Refreshing. The most interesting chapter is definitely the short but nonetheless intriguing one on string theories near the end - again, a simple explanation of what is an extremely complex idea. In fact, the only parts of this book I struggled at all with were the descriptions of imaginary time and inflationary expansion of the universe.

The only complaint would be that Hawking does venture off occasionally into philosophy, and as someone who loves physics so much, this made some parts a little dull.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read - but not the best on the subject, 26 Feb. 2010
By 
M. Hadfield "Ammonite" (Runcorn, Cheshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes (Paperback)
I'm reading this book 20+ years after its initial publication. I suspect that had I read it 20 years ago my reaction would have been Wow! that's incredibly interesting stuff and given it 5 stars. 20 years is a long time in quantum physics and so a lot of the material was familiar to me, and I think, Simon Singh, in the Big Bang: The Most Important Scientific Discovery of All Time and Why You Need to Know About it covers the same territory in a much more readable and enjoyable form. Still I learned some new stuff. I found out what quarks and gluons are. I'd heard of them but had no idea what they did. I even found out they (quarks) have up and down versions and come in different colours. I also found out why strings came and went and where all those other dimensions are hiding.

I think Stephen Hawking made an admirable attempt to reach down from his lofty mental perch, he even injects a little humour from time to time. I felt that there seemed to be an undercurrent throughout the book that hinted at a possibility (or maybe probability would be a better word given the subject matter) of an uncertainty in the author's mind about the existence of God and his use of science to prove it one way or another. (God is the very last word of the final chapter)

This book is very Hawking-centric. It touches on being autobiographical. It is very much about Hawking's views, ideas, opinions, research, mistakes, and changes of mind. So although it covers the historical information about people like Newton, Einstein, and many others, it seems that that information is provided only to put Hawking's own conclusions into context. In this respect I much prefer Big Bang because Singh's position is one of observer rather than participant. Though it is quite nice to have the 'horse's mouth' version in Brief History.

If you are interested in Hawking's contribution to theoretical physics then I would encourage you to read this. If you simply want to know how quantum theory fits into the creation, existence, and evolution of the known universe - then are better books.
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A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes
A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes by Stephen Hawking (Paperback - 1 April 1995)
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