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67 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hawking's universe
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...
Published on 1 Sept. 2005 by liam

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32 of 36 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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67 of 69 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)   
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and understandable, 9 Oct. 2013
By 
This review is from: A Brief History Of Time: From Big Bang To Black Holes (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hawking in real time - Review 74, 3 Sept. 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Reading a few other reviews, I realise the book has had a mixed reception with great strengths of feeling at either extreme, one even describing it as a "con job", others questioning Hawking's scientific credentials.
A phenomenon himself (although I am sure he would not like that description), I do not question his genius or his contributions to the world of science, especially after reading this. Theoretical physics and cosmology are "rocket-science", just not as tangible, and writing a popular, easily-accessible book on these challenging subjects must have been a real challenge in itself, trying to bring complex theories to the page, theories more often expressed in high-level mathematics.
Einstein pointed out that he rarely thought in language dealing with these subjects and that imagination was an essential tool; Hawking uses both language and his imagination effectively.
Hawking's book is an international best-seller (no recommendation itself, I know) but there seems to be more positive feedback than negative. I enjoyed the book, particularly:
2 Space and Time
3 The Expanding Universe
6 Black Holes
8 The Origins of the Universe
11 Conclusion Einstein, Galilei and Newton.

Fascinated by what I don't know and not knowing what I don't know, I found the book informative, accessible and well-written. Anyone struggling with the nature of the Universe itself in such an enthusiastic, knowledgeable way after an introduction by Carl Sagan, must be worthy of consideration. He is.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, 23 July 2000
By A Customer
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Physics and/or Maths. It is fair to say that this book goes into a greater amount of detail than may be desired by the general reader.
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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
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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 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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41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye-opening., 30 Nov. 2003
Like so many, I have always said I'd read Brief History. So i bit the bullet and delved in...
Now I'm not a mathematician, or a physisist. Not since GSCE's have i pondered over the equations that were set down over the last few hundred years. Luckily Stephen Hawking knew this when he wrote A Brief History of Time. In fact that was his driving force.
It proved to be, from the start, an enjoyable read. Doesn't really say much does it? "An enjoyable read", sort of reaction you'd have to a Spot the Dog book. Well that's how it starts. But I got through that to discover mind blowing theories and genuine enjoyment in reading Hawkings.
Yes there are a lot of things to get your head round, things that are complicated and at times uncomprehensible. But this is said in terms of altering your view on our world and universe, not in terms of being far too complicated and above us.
It's not for everyone, but if it's for you its an enthralling read. Not one to be left on the coffee table.
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32 of 36 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
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good science for non-scientists., 25 Oct. 1998
By A Customer
Ever wonder how the Universe actually works, without having to know too many equations (well, none actually)? Well, this bookyells you. It brings the reader up to date on all the complicated scientific theories concerning BIG things, and doesn't get bogged down with complicated stuff that only scientists need to know. It contains only one equation, and that's only to label a point. An informative, intelligent, and surprisingly easy-to-read synopsis of todays astrophysics.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally I can understand, 13 Aug. 1999
By A Customer
The content is mind bending, the explanations are simple for such complicated issues. I feel that he rambles, and tries too hard to show many sides of the coin at the same time, but without a doubt, the most interesting read I have had for a long time. I would definately recommend it.
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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 - 18 Aug. 2011)
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