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Customer Review

on 6 July 2012
Stephen Hawking's attempt to answer the great questions about life, the universe and everything. It is co written with someone with a name I can neither pronounce nor spell, but apologies to Leonard Ml-whatever-your-name-is, for not taking the time to copy and paste it.

Plusses are that this book is a wonderful short history of the growth of scientific thought as well as a crash course in quantum mechanics, relativity and M theory.

However, there was nothing actually new here - although it brings a lot of material into one nicely accessible place. A fuller discussion of the scientific theories can be found in books such as Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe (he has a later book that probably covers any recent changes Hawking includes).

As for the history of the development of science, that can be found in many places, but at times it was reminiscent of Russell's History of Western Philosophy.

On the downside, this book does not do what it purports to do. It asks the question "why is there something rather than nothing", but cannot answer it, and the attempt to reduce it to a non question is just a fudge that admits to the unanswerability of the question.

Early on the book also simply dismisses philosophy, saying it has not kept up with the science. That statement is a bold assertion written in defiance of the clear fact that modern philosophers are well aware of the latest physics, and make good use of it. Indeed, inasmuch as this book IS a work of philosophy, the book refutes its own assertion.

In a few other places, things are asserted without evidence and which are not obviously true.

The proposal of the unmodified radical multiverse idea as a solution to the extremely unlikely balance of the laws of nature that allow our universe to exist is also written in ignorance of the work of philosophers such as Keith Ward, who make the point that this merely multiplies the improbability of the whole. There is now so much more *stuff* to explain than before. We have mechanism but no answer to the reason there is something at all.

So no answers to the big questions in this book. I liked the physics, which is nicely described, but other books do that more thoroughly.
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