The Universe In A Nutshell Hardcover – Illustrated, 5 Nov 2001
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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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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!
It starts by two chapters discussing relativity and quantum mechanics, like repeating the old book, but with clear explanation of the concepts such as spin, time curve, forces, and string. A formula on the Black Hole Entropy closes these beginning chapters. It is something like S=Akc³/4hG :).
Startin on pages 67, it discusses "new" topics. The history of the universe, which is not linear. Then prediction of the future, with some other formulas, one from Schrödinger, and two others about Black Hole again :). Then it flows to the possibility for time travel to the past (and whether then the history could be changed). The next chapter discusses the future, whether it would be Star Trek or not. Also discussed are DNA, AI, mikroprosesor, etc. A discussion on the philosophy of the universe closes this book.
The chapters are linked well, but not sequential. Compared to many other popular science book published in the last 10 years, there is almost nothing new offered. But this book is a very excellent summary of all things discussed on those books (including the previous Hawking's book). We don't need to read his previous book before reading this one. The illustration is very rich, and luxurious. Many boxes discuss various topics from many other scientists, presented without making mess to the main text.
(But actually I expected something more from Hawking. I mean, he's Stephen Hawking, not just another popular science writer)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Book arrived as described.for anyone who thinks Stephen hawking books are too complicated,my advise? Read some.interesring and thought provoking.a great read!Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Unfortunately the cover was very scuffed and did not look new. As it was for a gift it was very disappointing and not worth the money.Published 6 months ago by Andy Kluz
A very easy to read illustrated description of the big ideas of The Universe comparing to A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
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