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103 of 112 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good summary of our current cosmological understanding
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...
Published on 7 Oct 2010 by David Love

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50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed content
"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...
Published on 18 Feb 2011 by CP


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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keen to learn, 5 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
Not being an expert in cosmology or theoretical physics, I cannot criticise the ideas in this book. They are however thought-provoking and illuminating and no doubt offer the best approach yet to understanding the origins of the universe. This book should be studied and not simply read as it is spasmodic in style and the level of difficulty varies enormously. The attempts at humour do not succeed and are unnecessary.In my opinion they are distracting. A summary of the pertinent points at the end of the book would have been useful so that the reader could appreciate the importance of what is being suggested. The conclusions of the research presented ought to be made widely available to the public in a simpler way and school children would benefit from this knowledge. Religious leaders need to be aware that their religion is not special but is merely one resulting from a Feynman history set off by a quantum jitter. Perhaps a quantum theory of religion should be their concern! In conclusion the points made in the book could be better defined and the style of presentation improved but I enjoyed it neverthele
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A false controversy, 5 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
Much has been written recently against this book contents. The main argument used is the supposed negation by the authors of the existence of God. I have read it carefully and the only thing I found in this regard is the affirmation that the creation of the world may be explained by physics without the intervention of a God creator. To me it proves that most of the negative opinions are given by people who have not read the book. I am a physician and I can assure that quantum physics have always been to me ununderstandable (as it is for nearly everyone as stated in the book). Although to say that this book has open me the whole mistery would be an exageration, I feel that quantum physics are much closer to me than it were before reading it. It is well written, clear and most illustrations are superb. If anyone has an elementary basis of physics, as is my case, I am sure that a quiet reading of the book would result both in pleasure and further instruction as has been my personal experience.
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22 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Grand Design?, 9 Sep 2010
By 
E. H. Andrews (Hertfordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
Stephen Hawking sold over nine million copies of his book A Brief History of Time. Now, 22 years later, he has co-authored The Grand Design which immediately hit the No.1 spot in the New York Times best-seller list. But the sequel is so inferior to the prequel in intellectual quality that a reviewer in The London Times Saturday Review (11 September 2010) writes: `It reads like a stretched magazine article ... there is too much padding and too much recycling of long-stale material... I doubt whether The Grand Design would have been published if Hawking's name were not on the cover'.
So why is the new book a runaway best-seller? Because it claims that science makes God redundant. Take a closer look at the claims advanced in The Grand Design.

The introduction asserts that `Philosophy is dead' (p.5) and science alone can provide `New answers to the ultimate questions of life' (the book's hubristic sub-title). But the authors then produce their own brand of humanistic philosophy, christen it `science' and base their book upon it.
They say; `this book is rooted in the concept of scientific determinism which implies ... that there are no miracles, or exceptions to the laws of nature'. But `scientific determinism' is simply the philosophical assumption that the laws control all events. I argue precisely the opposite in chapter 11 of my own book Who Made God? Searching For a Theory of Everything (WMG in further references).
Again, in chapter 3, They maintain that `reality' is a construct of our minds -- implying that there is no such thing as objective reality (Irish philosopher Bishop Berkeley had the same idea in 1710 but he wasn't widely believed). They conclude that `there is no picture- or theory-independent concept of reality' and propose what they call `model dependent realism' as a `frame-work with which to interpret modern science' (pp. 42-43). Clearly, an interpretive framework for science cannot be science but belongs in a different category altogether, namely, philosophy.
Since the mental models we construct `are the only reality we can know ... It follows then that a well-constructed model creates a reality of its own' (p.172). The problem with this, of course, is that it undermines the very concept of reality. Hawking's `reality' excludes God while my `reality' majors upon God. These two `realities' are mutually exclusive but both (according to Hawking) are equally `real'. This is postmodernism by the back door and it is wholly inimical to science, which depends on there being a genuine reality to investigate.

The authors also embrace another philosophy, namely, scientific determinism. `Though we feel we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets' (pp.31-32). So we are mindless automatons and everything we do or think is predetermined.
The reality is, of course, that biological processes are overwhelmingly `governed' not by physics and chemistry but by structured information, stored on DNA and expressed through the genetic code. It is information which controls the physics and chemistry of the living cell, not the other way round.
Furthermore, if our minds are simply by-products of molecular processes in the brain, then all our thoughts are meaningless including the authors' own theories. Thinking atheists such as Bertrand Russell and J. B. S. Haldane long ago recognised and admitted this dilemma explicitly (see WMG chapter 16) but Hawking and Mlodinow seem oblivious to it.
Chapter 4 is devoted to explaining the `many histories' formulation of quantum theory proposed by Richard Feynman. This is well done except that by ignoring other formulations of quantum theory the authors give the false impression that Feynman's is the only valid approach. This is tendentious because they need Feynman's idea as a springboard for their own multiverse hypothesis. To admit that `many histories' is just one of several equally valid formulations of quantum mechanics would weaken their argument considerably.

Chapter 5 surveys the development of physics during the past 200 years, including general relativity (which describes the large-scale behaviour of the universe) and quantum mechanics (which describes its microscopic behaviour). Although containing nothing new, this is by far the best part of this book.
The chapter concludes, however, with comments on M-theory that rang alarm bells (p.118). In the book's opening chapter, M-theory is no more than `a candidate for the ultimate theory of everything, if indeed one exists', and is `not a theory in the usual sense' but `may offer answers to the question of creation'. Physicist Lee Smolin is doubtful: `... we still do not know what M-theory is, or whether there is any theory deserving of the name' (The Trouble with Physics, Allen Lane 2007, p.146). Indeed, on p.117 the authors themselves admit that `people are still trying to decipher the nature of M-theory, but that may not be possible'.
But suddenly on p.118 this intractable mathematical model is somehow transformed into a theory so powerful that its laws are `more fundamental' than the laws of nature and `allow' for `different universes with different apparent laws'. This is a huge leap of atheistic faith.

The final three chapters rapidly descend into a witches brew of speculation and misinformation, confusingly blended with normal science. It certainly gave me a mental hangover -- and I am no stranger to the territory. It is difficult to discern where science ends and speculation begins, but the key reasoning seem to be as follows.

1. The `big bang' model predicts that the universe began life as such a tiny object that quantum theory must be applied to its origin (p.131). But hold on a moment! Quantum theory has only been validated under normal conditions of space, time, pressure, temperature and so on. We cannot know whether it applies to the supposed conditions at the origin of the universe, when space was intensely warped, time was at best fuzzy, and the pressure and temperature both approached infinity. What we do know is that massive objects do not exhibit quantum behaviour. No one can be sure that a new-born universe would obey quantum theory as we know it.

2. `In the early universe all four dimension [of space-time] behave like space' allowing us to `get rid of the problem of time having a beginning' (pp.134-135). But if time and space were equivalent, and time did not begin, then space didn't begin either! The universe was still-born. In fact the authors are appealing to the `no-boundary' model described by Hawking 22 years ago in A Brief History of Time but are economical with the truth. The earlier book makes it clear that the model is valid only in imaginary time, not in real time (see WMG p.121). But here this caveat vanishes and imaginary time is misrepresented as real time.
The narrative then descends into farce. They claim that `the realisation that time behaves like space ... means that the beginning of the universe was governed by the laws of science and doesn't need to be set in motion by some god' (p.135). So apparently the universe did `begin' after all, but not in time. Confused? Me too.

3. Picturing the early universe as a quantum particle (something they themselves describe as `tricky') the authors consider how it might evolve from point (state) A to point (state) B by applying Feynman's sum-over-histories method thus:

`[Since we are considering the beginning of the universe] there is no point A, so we add up all the histories that satisfy the no-boundary condition and end at the universe we observe today. In this view the universe appears spontaneously, starting off in every possible way. Most of these correspond to other universes.'

But by saying that point A does not exist they assume that the universe springs into existence somewhere between nothing (point A) and the present universe (point B). This tells us nothing about how or why the universe began; simply that it did begin. We knew that already.

4. Finally, p.180 does offer an explanation of spontaneous creation. The conservation of energy means that universes can only be created from nothing if their net energy is zero, with negative gravitational energy balancing out the positive energy of matter and radiation. This necessitates that a law of gravity must exist. Because a law of gravity exists it must and will of itself create universes out of nothing (no reasoning given).
So gravity is God. Unfortunately the authors have no time to tell us who created gravity (earlier they rule out God because no one could explain who created him). Nor can they tell us why matter and gravity should pop out of nothing, except to argue that `nothing' undergoes quantum fluctuations. However, this requires that (like gravity) the laws of quantum mechanics pre-existed the universe and that `nothing' possesses the properties of normal space, which is part of the created order and cannot be its antecedent.

A grand design? Only in the sense that this book is grandly designed to bamboozle the unwary and cloak atheistic philosophy in the garb of science. Fortunately, the clothes don't fit.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A great tradition, 12 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Grand Design (Kindle Edition)
There is a great tradition amongst famous physicists to dismiss things as impossible, only a few years before they actually take off.

In 1895 Lord Kelvin, the president of the Royal Society, said "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible". He also described x-rays as a hoax, and radio as useless. Similarly Ernest Rutherford dismissed the prospect of nuclear power as 'moonshine', and speaking on the same subject Einstein is reported to have said: "The likelihood of transforming matter into energy is something akin to shooting birds in the dark in a country where there are only a few birds."

Now Stephen Hawking can be added to the list, for dismissing the possibility of a comprehensive theory of everything, only a few months before the publication of my book Squish Theory, the theory of everything..

Maybe Hawking has read so often that he is the greatest theoretical physicist since Newton and Einstein, that he has started to believe his own publicity, and has assumed that since he has been unable to come up with a theory of everything, that therefore nobody else could. However a race so ingenious that it can create something as complex as a computer, certainly ought to be able to figure out something as comparatively simple as the fundamental nature of the universe.

In the final paragraph of 'A brief history of time', Hawking wrote: "if we do discover a complete theory ..... it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason". Will he now stand by those words? Only time will tell.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CHRISTMAS GIFT, 27 Dec 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Grand Design (Paperback)
PURCHASED AS A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR MY OTHER HALF HE HAS BEEN DRIVING ME MAD FOR THIS BOOK

EXCELLENT PURCHASE :-)
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent book, 11 Feb 2011
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
Not completed the book, but so far really enjoying it. Not to detailed but enough to help me get a grasp of the way our Universe works
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Kid stuff, and badly furnished., 24 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
The glued glossy paper has a REVOLTING odor: I recommend people to wait for a paperback edition.

Also, the book delves at length into trivial things, and glosses over some important bits. The handle on Feynman is the best I've seen so far, though.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, but could have been better..., 18 Oct 2010
By 
mnemonic (Orion's Belt) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
The book is not without merit, but overall it disappoints. The narrative is pitched at the layman, so cannot satisfy everyone. However, I feel it panders unnecessarily to that perceived audience. The 'headline' is that Hawking suggests that a creator 'God' is unnecessary. Fine, a point possibly worth making... once. Unfortunately, 'God' just keeps on coming back. For example, the 'anthropic principle'/'fine tuning' share the stage with 'God'. Why? The (non-multiverse) 'fine tuning' argument has always seemed to me, itself a 'leap of faith'. That whole passage seems contrived, just to allow 'God' another cameo. My impression is, that the audience's 'faith' is viewed as something to be handled with kid-gloves. As a result, the author over compensates and the flow and clarity suffer...
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great - is < The Grand Design >, 17 Sep 2010
This review is from: The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life (Hardcover)
Easy to understand for us laymen and women everywhere. Very accesible, love it!

Pertinent high quality imagary appears throughout the book as and when it is most useful (unlike many other books which group images into seperate sections).

The quality of the paper uses for all the pages is both shiny and sexy, a real plus to the global reading experience.

Buy this book, buy another for your best friend and another for you (unborn) children.
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2 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Why???, 13 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Grand Design (Kindle Edition)
I was really looking forward to his new book, but why this. This is basically an anti-god book using science as his basis. In truth I don't know if I believe in god or not, but why does a world class scientist demean himself by writing this bigoted tome. Science is about presenting the facts as we understand them, not make sweeping observations based on an understanding he freely admits is far from complete. On concepts of deity do that, present the facts and let us draw our own conclusions.
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The Grand Design: New Answers to the Ultimate Questions of Life by Leonard Mlodinow (Hardcover - 9 Sep 2010)
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