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Nutshells need Nutcrackers....
on 18 February 2002
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. Hawking seems to be generously aware of the difficulty in comprehending some of the abstract theories dealt lightly by him in the text and offers the reader a reading list at the end including a section on 'getting more technical'.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in gaining an overview and powerful insight to the current shape of the universe. Hawking covers well the many theories and concepts that are pre-requisites for the more recent discoveries and Hawking brings his own valuable insight and guidance to these without becoming too bogged down in technical detail.
An excellent starting point too for anyone interested in finding some answers to some of the more fundamental questions asked by humans.