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NY Times bestseller. 13 extraordinary essays shed new light on the mysteries of the universe & on one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time. In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man wide NY Times bestseller. 13 extraordinary essays shed new light on the mysteries of the universe & on one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time. In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe. Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.


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NY Times bestseller. 13 extraordinary essays shed new light on the mysteries of the universe & on one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time. In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man wide NY Times bestseller. 13 extraordinary essays shed new light on the mysteries of the universe & on one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time. In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe. Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.

30 review for Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays

  1. 5 out of 5

    mark monday

    this surprisingly relaxed and enjoyable collection of essays by Hawking didn't make me feel one bit stupid. not one bit! and i am a real dolt when it comes to much of science in general and physics in particular. thank you Hawking for not talking down to me and presenting your rich, dense pie of ideas in a way that was perfectly palatable. there are a couple of pleasant, unpretentious essays on Hawking's personal life and history (noticeably absent in his prior bestseller) and his general thought this surprisingly relaxed and enjoyable collection of essays by Hawking didn't make me feel one bit stupid. not one bit! and i am a real dolt when it comes to much of science in general and physics in particular. thank you Hawking for not talking down to me and presenting your rich, dense pie of ideas in a way that was perfectly palatable. there are a couple of pleasant, unpretentious essays on Hawking's personal life and history (noticeably absent in his prior bestseller) and his general thoughts on life - including some amusing comments on his computer voice's distinctly american accent. and there are some fun, bitchy barbs aimed at his own personal nemeses - "philosophers of science" (...failed physicists who found it too hard to invent new theories and so took to writing about the philosophy of physics instead. They are still arguing about the scientific theories of the early years of this century, like relativity and quantum mechanics. They are not in touch with the present frontier of physics.) perhaps that sounds harsh, particularly coming from a theoretical physicist. but apparently these dastardly Philosophers of Science have been hounding him for years, simply due to his own resistance to fitting his approach and ideas into a single, known school of thought (i.e. as nominalist or instumentalist or positivist or realist, etc... most of which have absolutely no meaning to me). go get 'em, Hawking! the above paragraph describes only a handful of the essays. the rest are almost entirely concerned with explaining black holes, baby universe, the 4 basic interactions (strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and - the weakest of all - our old friend gravity); concepts such as "imaginary time"; the continued relevance of quantum mechanics; and especially Hawkings' pursuit of a "Grand Unified Theory". Hawkings' work (and this collection) is overtly driven by his desire to finally create this "theory of everything" - one that will at long last lay bare the inner workings of the universe, where we have been, where we are going, how it all connects and what it is all about. is there a greater goal for a theoretical physicist? i really don't know. but this drive really gave me the impression of Hawking being one of the world's Great Men, a man who contemplates the finite and the infinite on a casual basis and whose quest in life is not so much based in ego (although that is there) but in helping to raise humanity to the next level. whatever that level may be. one might think that God has no place in all of this. well, one would be wrong. God seems to be very much on Hawking's mind. his quest is, in a way, a striving to understand 'the mind of God'. fascinating! here are some of his thoughts on this topic: "It is now generally accepted that the universe evolves according to well-defined laws. These laws may have been ordained by God, but it seems that He does not intervene in the universe to break the laws. Until recently, however, it was thought that these laws did not apply to the beginning of the universe. It would be up to God to wind up the clockwork and set the universe going in any way He wanted. Thus, the present state of the universe would be the result of God's choice of the initial conditions. The situation would be very different, however, if something like the no-boundary proposal were correct. In that case the laws of physics would hold even at the beginning of the universe, so God would not have had the freedom to choose the initial conditions. Of course, He would still have been free to choose the laws that the universe obeyed. However, this may not have been much of a choice. There may only be a small number of laws, which are self-consistent and which lead to complicated beings like ourselves who can ask the question: What is the nature of God? And if there is only one unique set of possible laws, it is only a set of equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern? is the ultimate unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Although science may solve the problem of how the universe began, it cannot answer the question: Why does the universe bother to exist?" rather strange to find this kind of discussion within a book concerned with theoretical physics. but Hawking makes it not so strange; if anything, his mind illustrates its own kind of Grand Unified Theory. he connects so many things, without ever rambling - on a personal level, on a theoretical level, on a purely scientific level. he writes eloquently and passionately about his thoughts on God, on determinism vs. free will, on various moments in history, on so much... and on his favorite records! what an awesome mind. what a man! he also answers this timeless question, posed by Sue from Desert Island Discs: Sue: What would happen if you fell into a black hole? Stephen: You get made into spaghetti.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    This is a very different book from A Brief History of Time. Hawking notes he doesn’t want to write an autobiography, and puts off people who try to persuade him by saying he’s “considering it” when he’s just avoiding it. I actually think this reads a bit like an autobiography; half of it is devoted to childhood anecdotes, why he got into physics, how his disease affects him (or doesn’t), how he feels about his celebrity and his image with the public. I can never decide how much I like Hawking. He This is a very different book from A Brief History of Time. Hawking notes he doesn’t want to write an autobiography, and puts off people who try to persuade him by saying he’s “considering it” when he’s just avoiding it. I actually think this reads a bit like an autobiography; half of it is devoted to childhood anecdotes, why he got into physics, how his disease affects him (or doesn’t), how he feels about his celebrity and his image with the public. I can never decide how much I like Hawking. He can be lowkey condescending at times, but on the other hand he admits his shortcomings freely and quickly and has this droll tone conveyed throughout that makes him irresistible. (“When I was twelve, one of my friends bet another friend a bag of sweets that I would never come to anything. I don’t know if this bet was ever settled and, if so, which way it was decided.”) He also says something rather interesting about the machine that conveys his speech: “The synthesizer is by far the best I have heard because it varies the intonation. The only trouble is that it gives me an American accent. However, by now I identify with its voice. I would not want to change it even if I were offered a British-sounding voice. I would feel I had become a different person.” - This reminds me of the EXTREMELY interesting cyborg movement led by Neil Harbisson, which seeks for non-organic bodily additions (antennae, implants, wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, etc.) to be legally/ethically/socially recognized as part of the body. I do have a little hatred in my heart for Hawking because of how much he hates philosophy, and how little he seems to understand of it. I’m not saying he *couldn’t*, of course, he certainly could if he bothered to. But from what he says, it seems he’s read very, very little philosophy, and generally refuses to think about it, but is happy to criticize it out of spite (because apparently some philosophers criticize him). Because his criticisms of what philosophy of science accomplishes is, to borrow a phrase from I-can’t-remember-whom, “picking the stick up from the other end.” Same stick, different end, totally different point. The goals he says philosophers of science are failing at simply aren’t their goals. I also don’t really agree with this fiction that he’s the best at explaining cosmology to laymen. He’s not bad, but I’ve definitely read better-phrased material on the same subjects. He also sometimes has a tendency to mess up his pacing. Like he’ll natter on for days about something that I’m like “Yeah, duh, we all know this, Stephen, don’t talk down to us, move on.” And then other things that absolutely bewilder me, he skips over all “yeah duh of course” but no, not duh. I did learn, which I had not previously known, that there may well be “white holes” in the universe which are the counterpart to black holes; as black holes suck matter in, they expel that matter, though not, of course, in any recognizable way. And that baby universes might exist where particles go while inside a black hole, before they are emitted by the white hole that is born somewhere else. Lovely.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zainab Ali

    This is a collection of personal and scientific articles written by Stephen Hawking over the period 1976 to 1992. If you have read some of Stephen Hawking's major books, you'll find this one repetitive and unnecessary. If you haven't, it might be a good introduction. This is a collection of personal and scientific articles written by Stephen Hawking over the period 1976 to 1992. If you have read some of Stephen Hawking's major books, you'll find this one repetitive and unnecessary. If you haven't, it might be a good introduction.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sanchari Chaudhuri

    Came for the science, stayed for the humour. "Black holes might be useful for getting rid of garbage or even some of one's friends." Came for the science, stayed for the humour. "Black holes might be useful for getting rid of garbage or even some of one's friends."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Alan Johnson

    Chapter 12 of this book of Stephen Hawking's occasional writings reproduces a lecture given at the University of Cambridge in April 1990. It is entitled "Is Everything Determined?" This essay is a work of art—perfectly organized, in simple but elegant language, and mostly well reasoned. Hawking concluded that science can neither prove nor disprove that free will is impossible in the face of scientific determinism and that, pending such proof, we "may as well adopt the effective theory that human Chapter 12 of this book of Stephen Hawking's occasional writings reproduces a lecture given at the University of Cambridge in April 1990. It is entitled "Is Everything Determined?" This essay is a work of art—perfectly organized, in simple but elegant language, and mostly well reasoned. Hawking concluded that science can neither prove nor disprove that free will is impossible in the face of scientific determinism and that, pending such proof, we "may as well adopt the effective theory that humans are free agents who can choose what to do." In the course of arriving at this conclusion, Hawking stated: "I have noticed that even people who claim that everything is predestined and that we can do nothing to change it look before they cross the road. Maybe it's just that those who don't look don't survive to tell the tale. "One cannot base one's conduct on the idea that everything is determined, because one does not know what has been determined. Instead, one has to adopt the effective theory that one has free will and that one is responsible for one's actions. This theory is not very good at predicting human behavior, but we adopt it because there is no chance of solving the equations arising from the fundamental laws. There is also a Darwinian reason that we believe in free will. A society in which the individual feels responsible for his or her actions is more likely to work together and survive to spread its values. . . . A collection of free individuals who share mutual aims . . . can collaborate on their common objectives and yet have the flexibility to make innovations. Thus, such a society is more likely to prosper and to spread its system of values. "The concept of free will belongs to a different arena from that of fundamental laws of science. If one tries to deduce human behavior from the laws of science, one gets caught in the logical paradox of self-referencing systems." Stephen Hawking, "Is Everything Determined?," in "Black Holes and Baby Universes" and Other Essays (New York: Bantam Books, 1994), 134-35, 138. Considering my current interest in the issue of free will, I am not now reading the other essays in this book and accordingly am not rating the book as a whole. Alan E. Johnson (revised June 2, 2018)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bart Breen

    Fascinating and Stimulating Like others who have reviewed this work, I can endorse it as a stimulating and thoughtful book. It is in essence however not a coherent book with a single theme. It is a compilation of articles and as such there is much in the book that is repetitive. Hawking acknowledges this and disclaims it at the outset. Even with the forewarning I found that element to be a tad annoying. I listened to the audio version of the book while commuting and I found it overall to be a fasc Fascinating and Stimulating Like others who have reviewed this work, I can endorse it as a stimulating and thoughtful book. It is in essence however not a coherent book with a single theme. It is a compilation of articles and as such there is much in the book that is repetitive. Hawking acknowledges this and disclaims it at the outset. Even with the forewarning I found that element to be a tad annoying. I listened to the audio version of the book while commuting and I found it overall to be a fascinating read. The biographical material about Hawking helped to put a "person" to the personality. Hawking is, without doubt, brilliant. His ability to reduce difficult concepts to listener sound bites speaks to that brilliance. I came away with an appreciation for his brilliance and abilities as well as the field of cosmological science that I did not have before. Of particular note, I found Hawking's treatment of metaphysics to be interesting but ultimately no more valuable than anyone else's opinions in that area. Physics will never answer the question of why the universe exists or whether God in fact exists and created this universe. Science can only answer how the universe works and what laws govern its behavior. Hawkings admits this himself so I took no offense to his words, I just found it interesting that his position did not make his insights in that regard any more valuable. The final segment of transcript from a radio show read by the narrator struck me a an opportunity missed to allow Hawking to finish with his own voice and presence. I was disappointed they did not use the original sound feed and chose to read the transcript. Well worth the read or the listen. Entertaining. Already dated though and perhaps his more recent works would be of more value to most listeners.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Praxedes

    Wonderful book for theoretical astrophysics neophytes such as me! The book is written in the same clear and simple style as 'A Brief History of Time'. Hawking dumbs down his work enough to make it accessible to the masses without compromising on its intrigue or wonder. I was particularly impressed by his explanation for imaginary time, a concept I have been struggling to understand for some time. More importantly, it is the kind of book that turns people on to science. Well done, Mr. Hawking! Wonderful book for theoretical astrophysics neophytes such as me! The book is written in the same clear and simple style as 'A Brief History of Time'. Hawking dumbs down his work enough to make it accessible to the masses without compromising on its intrigue or wonder. I was particularly impressed by his explanation for imaginary time, a concept I have been struggling to understand for some time. More importantly, it is the kind of book that turns people on to science. Well done, Mr. Hawking!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lupita

    Not as complex as I thought. Its very descriptive and give to the reader a lot of examples to understand the theories and the concepts.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    My favorite aspect of this collection of essays is that Hawking reveals himself as well as his science. The book includes two autobiographical essays and an interview in which Hawking tells the reader about his early history and his contraction of motor neuron disease, as well as his transformation from a bored young adult to a well-established and cutting-edge theoretical physicist. I like Hawking and his style as much as I enjoy learning about (and reviewing) key tenets of astrophysics. I also My favorite aspect of this collection of essays is that Hawking reveals himself as well as his science. The book includes two autobiographical essays and an interview in which Hawking tells the reader about his early history and his contraction of motor neuron disease, as well as his transformation from a bored young adult to a well-established and cutting-edge theoretical physicist. I like Hawking and his style as much as I enjoy learning about (and reviewing) key tenets of astrophysics. I also like the fact that Hawking doesn't shy away from giving other people credit for their discoveries. It's endearing. Each of the essays in this collection was easy to follow and held my attention for different reasons. I like that Hawking is positive and life affirming. I like that he doesn't ever deny the existence of God. I like his obvious admiration of Einstein. I like that Hawking is always conscious of his reader and clearly wants his reader to understand and appreciate the value of physics and the reasons that it matters for everyday life. I highly recommend this book to people interested in astrophysics, Stephen Hawking, and how things work and why they work the way they do (after all, that's what got Hawking started with science: wanting to know why and how).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn

    This book is the Shrödinger's cat of physics books: both lacking for a physicist and simultaneously too complicated for the layman. Even though it is a collection of speeches and essays, Hawkings writing is not to my liking. It is too plain and not detailed enough in topics of actual interest. I'm glad this book was short but even so it was a struggle to complete. This book is the Shrödinger's cat of physics books: both lacking for a physicist and simultaneously too complicated for the layman. Even though it is a collection of speeches and essays, Hawkings writing is not to my liking. It is too plain and not detailed enough in topics of actual interest. I'm glad this book was short but even so it was a struggle to complete.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Francesca

    a universally enjoyable read (crappy pun intended)

  12. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Off

    I learned too much with this book, I don't like this type of books, but, its very helpful I learned too much with this book, I don't like this type of books, but, its very helpful

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    You read this collection of essays and get what you can from them. Hawking himself knows (see the last essay, actually interview, at the end of the book) that there is much the reader will not understand. Hawking says that a universe that collapses onto itself is a "singularity of infinite density," but it's not clear what about it is "infinite." He says that time/space has no boundary or edge. We understand that point as a circle and Hawking uses the earth as an example (one can travel around t You read this collection of essays and get what you can from them. Hawking himself knows (see the last essay, actually interview, at the end of the book) that there is much the reader will not understand. Hawking says that a universe that collapses onto itself is a "singularity of infinite density," but it's not clear what about it is "infinite." He says that time/space has no boundary or edge. We understand that point as a circle and Hawking uses the earth as an example (one can travel around the earth and back to a starting point). But that stimulates the next question, which is what is beyond the circle? While we know some sort of space lies beyond the earth, is there nothing beyond space and time and, if so, what or how does one understand "nothing"? Hawking summarizes nicely the four forces in the order of strength, but it's hard not to wonder whether the gravitational force, the weakest of the four, actually is the primary one. Hawking says that matter in the beginning was created out of energy by borrowing from the gravitational energy of the universe (and that this energy was necessary to counter the effects of gravity, the matter tucked tightly in a pre-Big Bang scenario). Even with a glimmer of understanding, that's heady stuff. Hawking says that a collapsed star that forms a black hole is a reverse version of the Big Bang process. Matter attracts to a singularity, which seems to be some sort of ultimate gravity, not because some mysterious center point pulls matter to itself, but because matter attracts matter and the only result is a pull to some center point. There, does matter become so dense (infinite?) that it creates the explosive power ("Infinite" matter converts to energy?) necessary to create a Big Bang scenario? Do black holes explode in the same way, thereby helping to perpetuate the cyclic nature of the universe? If matter and energy are equivalent (Hawking doesn't describe how speed of light fits into Einstein's formula) and if gravity is matter attracted to itself, what creates the attraction and how does this relate to energy? Understandably, these speculative questions, more fun than frustrating, may make a professional physicist wince. In one essay Hawking attempts to bridge physical laws and human behavior. He says the fundamental laws of science cannot be used to deduce human behavior. Yet, it's fair to wonder. Are not the four forces termed "interaction" (which includes gravity that, while often talked about as an attractive force, involves a critical distance where another mass resists being attracted). Are not humans matter and are not human relationships with each other and the world characterized by attraction and resistance? In the free will arena, Hawking seems to say that while physical laws predetermine, it is too complex to deduce whether and how humans are predetermined and, therefore, he seems to conclude that humans have some sort of free will. We know humans have a degree of choice, save for situations like genetic disease and death that make choices for us (though we try with religion and medicine). Hawking is silent on why we choose the way we do. On what basis is choice made? Does survival and well-being have a lot to do with such choices and isn't this science based? In Epicurean fashion, we seek whatever we are attracted to (need) and we resist what we are not attracted to (don't need). Is this similarity with the physical laws of the universe a coincidence? Hawking makes a revealing, throw away, comment about Feynman resigning from the Academy of Sciences because "he hated pomp and humbug" and the Academy scientists were too preoccupied with who should be admitted to the Academy. Maybe that aside reveals that the best minds rest on animal-biological needs(survival and rank behavior related to survival) which, it is interesting to speculate, may tie into how matter relates to matter (we seek objects from the world to live; we resist threats to our life). On the whole, this is a terrific book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Athena

    My tryst with physics was earnest, tedious and sometimes unpleasant and continues to remain so. I make no claims to have a scientific bent of mind, though I am not a complete trogladyte. Hence when I was gifted this book...a book by one of the great minds of our time...I was rather skeptical. I have not read A Brief History of Time, primarily because I was afraid I would not understand. Reading this one however, gives me a little courage to perhaps pick up the bestseller. Black Holes and Baby Uni My tryst with physics was earnest, tedious and sometimes unpleasant and continues to remain so. I make no claims to have a scientific bent of mind, though I am not a complete trogladyte. Hence when I was gifted this book...a book by one of the great minds of our time...I was rather skeptical. I have not read A Brief History of Time, primarily because I was afraid I would not understand. Reading this one however, gives me a little courage to perhaps pick up the bestseller. Black Holes and Baby Universes is a lovely read, especially for the novice and unsure. Hawking's language is simple and he attempts to speak to the lay man. From snippets of his life, which you grow to be awe-struck about, to the theoretical jargon for the common man, Hawking lets you know that the universe will continue to be there, with its galaxies and black holes, just as it appeared after the Big Bang. Science is as fluid as literature perhaps with ever-changing theories. Just goes to show what is truth today, may not be so tomorrow. It is in that acceptance that we survive,till the day the universe collapses on itself.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    There are three insights that I gleaned from reading this book which was published in 1993. It is essentially a collection of his papers and writings written at a very high level mixed with some auto biographical memoirs. In that respect it is not a strictly coherent message. The first revelation was Hawking’s discussion around primordial black holes. Hawking came up with the theory in 1971 during his ground breaking work on black holes. Of course no one had ever witnessed a black hole of any si There are three insights that I gleaned from reading this book which was published in 1993. It is essentially a collection of his papers and writings written at a very high level mixed with some auto biographical memoirs. In that respect it is not a strictly coherent message. The first revelation was Hawking’s discussion around primordial black holes. Hawking came up with the theory in 1971 during his ground breaking work on black holes. Of course no one had ever witnessed a black hole of any size so Hawking’s additional theory that there were also numerous ‘small’ primordial black holes, developed in the Big Bang, did not receive as much attention as the massive black holes that might be lurking at the center of universes. Plus primordial black homes are small so hard to find until recent technology advances. Hawking also theorized that these primordial black holes might be an explanation for the presence of dark matter. There have been two, likely, discoveries of primordial black holes by astronomers. These both occurred in the past two years and after Hawking’s death in 2018. These exciting discoveries have been overshadowed by the implication that, assuming the measurements are correct, there are way too few primordial black holes that have been discovered to explain Hawking’s dark matter connection . But I think Hawking’s theory that primordial black holes were found to exist at all that should be receiving more attention! The second revelation was Hawking’s discussion of the creation of baby universes to explain what happens to the matter that goes into a black hole. I found this philosophically fascinating and in oddly plausible. Many other derivative bubble universe theories have popped up in the decades since including one that says that our Big Bang occurred because our universe is trapped inside a black hole of another universe. I am intrigued by this theory too. Note these theories are black hole universe theories and aren’t in the same family as the parallel universes theorized by the duality of quantum physics, i.e. where there a nearly infinite number universes with nearly identical copies of ourselves. I find these theories a little harder to accept. The third aspect to this book that I enjoyed were the autobiographical chapters where we see the humanity and subtleties around Steven Hawking’s personality. In particular he showed a great deal of gratitude to his support network. In the early years following his ALS diagnosis in the early 1960’s he was deeply depressed. It was clear that the illness was progressing rapidly and was going to kill him soon. However the illness stopped progressing after a few years and he then became much more appreciative of life. 4 stars. A little disorganized at times and too short but I enjoyed it very much. While not as famous as ‘A Brief History of Time’ since this book was published in 1993 it feels a little more current.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Kristopher Swinson

    I picked this up as a diversion and hopeful cure for a case of insomnia, in which it was only moderately successful. Hawking seems modest enough, and certainly has a vibrant sense of humor. Indeed, his writing style is rather accessible--which made me all the more frustrated when, due to the repetitive nature from collecting these essays, I realized I still only understand quantum physics to a certain extent, even on the third reading. While he downplays the necessity of mathematical erudition ( I picked this up as a diversion and hopeful cure for a case of insomnia, in which it was only moderately successful. Hawking seems modest enough, and certainly has a vibrant sense of humor. Indeed, his writing style is rather accessible--which made me all the more frustrated when, due to the repetitive nature from collecting these essays, I realized I still only understand quantum physics to a certain extent, even on the third reading. While he downplays the necessity of mathematical erudition (10, 35, etc.), supposedly not his actual strong suit, I obviously don't believe it's sufficient to analyze good metaphors--or parables--without sound comprehension of what lies in back of them. At least, I'm hoping that's why I can't always follow. Thankfully, some things I can follow, i.e., "If the solar system were composed of an equal mixture of particles and antiparticles, they would all annihilate each other and leave just radiation" (60). (Yeah, duh.) Still, I have to wonder whether it's gotten to his (and the entire scientific community's) head, particularly as one lecture pondered whether they could stumble upon the coveted unified theory within the next 20 years. He is somewhat ambivalent about God, and it's nerve-wracking to hear his honest belief that we are close to knowing the mind of God (37), thereby becoming "Masters of the Universe" (ix; see 5, 47). He's not usually too antagonistic in pointing out that science cannot answer why the universe was created (19, 91, 99, 172-173), and almost giving God the throne, even if pretending to largely know how He operates (98, 128, 137). If only he'd concede how much is sheer theory, as he often hints when stating that science is progressing to the point where earth's resources can't construct a sufficient device to test its postulates. In one place, he nearly states that constructs hard for him to imagine are not worth incorporation into theory (66); he enjoyed pointing out where Einstein overlooked something of cosmological importance. Why can't he also ever be mistaken? Orson Pratt stated in 1878, "Light, how slow! . . . Now, the Lord has powers beyond those with which we are acquainted" (Orson Pratt, JD, 19:294; see 21:258). At first, many could agree with speed greater than light. Then the theory of relativity prohibited such a notion. Now quantum mechanics allow the possibility again, something which Hawking relied upon in explaining escape velocity at the event horizon of black holes. He sets up another scenario, except what he calls "dark matter," I call "pure and refined" matter, even "light matter" or "the light of Christ": We can measure the speeds at which individual galaxies are moving in these clusters. We find they are so high that the clusters would fly apart unless they were held together by gravitational attraction. The mass required is considerably greater than the masses of all the galaxies. . . . It follows, therefore, that there must be extra dark matter present in clusters of galaxies outside the galaxies that we see. . . . What could the extra dark matter be that must be there if the theory of inflation is correct? It seems that it is probably different from normal matter, the kind that makes up stars and planets. (148, 151-152) There's excitement in, and allowance for, inquiry about the universe, but I get distrustful in men who jettison God or seem to think they know more than they do at this stage in the game. Edison freely admitted, "We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything." As for the phenomena above, while I can see why much in historical Christianity leads to Hawking's misrepresentation of their approach to science (86), I still contend that man cannot by searching find out God, that one learns more by gazing into heaven (as permitted by God's parting the veil, not just a glance at the night sky, necessarily) for five minutes than reading all the books ever written on the subject, and that in many respects the revelations really do still offer the most beautiful answers. (For instance, with respect to gravitational governance unaccounted for by current equations, I refer you to Abraham Facsimile 2, Figures 1 through 5, which overall is curiously circular, like the one eternal round which Hawking approaches in his method for real/imaginary time bending back into itself.) I take additional comfort in James E. Talmage's rational, albeit religious, explanation (LEJ, 21:440): "Astronomers admit that there may be many invisible worlds in space, of structure too fine and of matter too tenuous to be observed by our dull vision. These may be celestialized orbs, tenanted by celestial beings, perceptible only to celestialized senses." I'm sorry about my impatient rant, mainly irrelevant to reviewing the book at hand. This is cutting edge and nearly as entertaining as possible for the subject matter, but I don't swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joshua

    A Brief History of Time, both the book as well as the documentary about the life of Stephen Hawking, completely altered my perception of reality, the foundation of it, the origin of absolutely everything, and my conception of what existence actually is. For whatever reason, I followed up this masterpiece by disappearing into James Joyce's Ulysses and I left Hawking to his work. It's fair to say I picked up this collection for the fifth time because of the man's death. We had a display set up for A Brief History of Time, both the book as well as the documentary about the life of Stephen Hawking, completely altered my perception of reality, the foundation of it, the origin of absolutely everything, and my conception of what existence actually is. For whatever reason, I followed up this masterpiece by disappearing into James Joyce's Ulysses and I left Hawking to his work. It's fair to say I picked up this collection for the fifth time because of the man's death. We had a display set up for the man at the library in which I work, and one a whim I checked out the aforementioned documentary, and I went home to my own library and picked up this collection of essays to familiarize myself with the man and his work. These essays are not just about the life of Stephen Hawking, a man who has impacted science as well as the zeitgeist in remarkable and unforeseeable ways, but about the nature of black holes and a concept known as imaginary time. These essays are written in such a way so that a layman may begin to understand the workings of the universe and the alterations of paradigms which have taken place in the field of cosmology and theoretical physics. They present a universe which not chaotic, but open to uncertainty and bound by laws that shape the time and space in which we all operate. I cannot promise that the reader will find such inspiration in this work as I have, but these essays have allowed me to glimpse into the concept of imaginary time, and this understanding is radically altering my perception of the world, the universe, and time, whatever that really is.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Allison Przylepa

    Hawking's charmingly down-to-earth perspective is evident throughout his personal essays in the form of witty, irreverent anecdotes that add a twist of humor into what would have otherwise read as a bland, colorless monotone. Readers come to recognize Hawking not as the caricature of the brilliant, eccentric scientist he's been painted as in popular media, but as a man of modest and ordinary upbringing with a pragmatic world view and incredible resilience in the face of his incurable disease. Som Hawking's charmingly down-to-earth perspective is evident throughout his personal essays in the form of witty, irreverent anecdotes that add a twist of humor into what would have otherwise read as a bland, colorless monotone. Readers come to recognize Hawking not as the caricature of the brilliant, eccentric scientist he's been painted as in popular media, but as a man of modest and ordinary upbringing with a pragmatic world view and incredible resilience in the face of his incurable disease. Somewhere between the meat of the book and its discussions of the universe, our sympathies are gently and discreetly tugged upon; we learn that Hawking's wife was his raison d'être when he knew he may not survive to earn his PhD, and that the selfless charity of a man Hawking barely knew gave him his voice back. It's worth mentioning that I read Hawking's A Brief History of Time before reading this one. Even without having done so, I feel that the later chapters of Black Holes and Baby Universes comes off as, at times, redundant, and many of the theories expressed therein are far too complex and otherworldly for the average reader to comprehend. (Bosonic string theory, for example, only works if there are twenty six dimensions, some of them "curved up into a space of very small size, something like a million million million million millionth of an inch.") In the end, readers should find themselves riveted and touched by this book, from its opening chapter detailing Hawking's autobiography to the later discussions of theoretical physics.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Erik Fjeldsted

    The reason for giving this book two stars is because I only understood 1/3 of what he was talking about. It was interesting to read about these ideas related to how the universe is growing or shrinking or things like imaginary time. But when he would try to explain it it would go over my head. (I would not consider myself dumb either). It is just a subject that I am not very acquainted with, so when he said things like " imaginary time is at a right angle to normal time" or "the universe has a l The reason for giving this book two stars is because I only understood 1/3 of what he was talking about. It was interesting to read about these ideas related to how the universe is growing or shrinking or things like imaginary time. But when he would try to explain it it would go over my head. (I would not consider myself dumb either). It is just a subject that I am not very acquainted with, so when he said things like " imaginary time is at a right angle to normal time" or "the universe has a large gravitational debt to repay" they sound cool but what does that really mean.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Horia Bura

    As it is a collection of essays based on speeches given at various conferences, interviews etc., the repetition of some themes and concepts is inevitable. However, Hawking uses the same accessible and, at times, humorous style as in his other works, but, on the other hand, he introduces some very interesting autobiographical segments that allow us to somewhat dive into his private life and understand how he relates to his family, readers and, not the least, his own illness.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ankita Gour

    food for thought, simple and humorous

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    It is what it is. A collection of essays older than 1994. Repetitive in thoughts, anecdotes and and other things. Nevertheless, quite involving and interesting short read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Zainab Alqassab

    This is the first book i read for Stephen Hawking so i don’t know if its ok to consider it as a summary of his ideas or not cause it seems like that to me. The first collection of the articles in the book could be considered as a biographical material about the author. The second part of the articles deals with the origin of the universe, black holes, imaginary time and theories ( relativity, Quantum mechanics ). Although the language of the book is easy to read and understand most of the concep This is the first book i read for Stephen Hawking so i don’t know if its ok to consider it as a summary of his ideas or not cause it seems like that to me. The first collection of the articles in the book could be considered as a biographical material about the author. The second part of the articles deals with the origin of the universe, black holes, imaginary time and theories ( relativity, Quantum mechanics ). Although the language of the book is easy to read and understand most of the concepts, but still some seems difficult to fully grasp . لغير مُحبي الفيزياء الكتاب يحتاج إلى مزااج راايق وذهن صافي لضمان جودة الفهم . “ We live in a universe governed by rational laws that we can discover and understand”. “ Why does the universe bother to exist ? “. “ The beginning in real time will be the big bang singularity. However, the beginning in imaginary time will not be a singularity”.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Abdullah Bustami

    Although I'm a big fan of Hawking's works, but you can see I only gave this book 3 stars (Which I hope Stephen would forgive for this huge sin) but the reason for taking away two precious stars is due to the huge repetition found in the book. The book, as the title says, includes essays and lectures that Stephen gave during his life, all of those lectures and talks were gathered to make up this nice volume. But as I said you will constantly end up reading paragraphs and ideas that had already bee Although I'm a big fan of Hawking's works, but you can see I only gave this book 3 stars (Which I hope Stephen would forgive for this huge sin) but the reason for taking away two precious stars is due to the huge repetition found in the book. The book, as the title says, includes essays and lectures that Stephen gave during his life, all of those lectures and talks were gathered to make up this nice volume. But as I said you will constantly end up reading paragraphs and ideas that had already been discussed. Otherwise than that, it's perfect, again, Hawking is trying to convey his great theories and ideas on a really simple ground that enables everyone to understand. Also, we can still see the ever-known sense of humor Hawking had. It's absolutely a privilege to have read words written and spoken by this man.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kinjal Parekh

    I am not a science student nor do I enjoy science but I always have been curious when it comes to where-abouts related to Universe topics. I absolutely loved reading this book. There were 2/3 essays which did not really appeal to me which I guess was because I am not a physics student. Excluding them, the rest of the book kept me engrossed. I loved reading this one! Definately recommended to science students and those who are interested or curious to read about the Universe and such related topics. I am not a science student nor do I enjoy science but I always have been curious when it comes to where-abouts related to Universe topics. I absolutely loved reading this book. There were 2/3 essays which did not really appeal to me which I guess was because I am not a physics student. Excluding them, the rest of the book kept me engrossed. I loved reading this one! Definately recommended to science students and those who are interested or curious to read about the Universe and such related topics. The forward of this book describes Stephen's life right from his chilhood which is VERY motivating. He has not led a simple life yet he was blessed to have his loved ones always near and for him. It makes me realise how important family is.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Azla

    I'll admit the repetitions were a tad bit annoying despite the forewarning. But everything else more than made up for it. Truly legendary in far more than science. Who knew essays could be so full of great humour! Definitely a book to read when you're feeling down. "Black holes might be useful for getting rid of garbage or even some of one’s friends." "The danger is that our power to damage or destroy the environment or one another is increasing much more rapidly than our wisdom in using this powe I'll admit the repetitions were a tad bit annoying despite the forewarning. But everything else more than made up for it. Truly legendary in far more than science. Who knew essays could be so full of great humour! Definitely a book to read when you're feeling down. "Black holes might be useful for getting rid of garbage or even some of one’s friends." "The danger is that our power to damage or destroy the environment or one another is increasing much more rapidly than our wisdom in using this power." "I just want to have the same degree of control over my life that other people have. Far too often, disabled people have their lives ruled by others. No able-bodied person would put up with it."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Adarsh

    A few days back, I got into an online debate with a random girl in a Facebook community. She had mentioned that this is the age of Science, and while Science is taking human life forward at an unimaginable pace, speculative Philosophers are just a hindrance to human progress. I replied with the speculation that a lot of what Science says could turn out to be wrong. This started a fierce discussion that went on for quite long, and I was barely able to defend the powerful arguments she kept throwi A few days back, I got into an online debate with a random girl in a Facebook community. She had mentioned that this is the age of Science, and while Science is taking human life forward at an unimaginable pace, speculative Philosophers are just a hindrance to human progress. I replied with the speculation that a lot of what Science says could turn out to be wrong. This started a fierce discussion that went on for quite long, and I was barely able to defend the powerful arguments she kept throwing at me, until the community admin removed the post for "digression". The takeaway from that experience was this : if she is right, Science is very close to finding an answer to The Life, The Universe and Everything in It, and that it would not be 42. Stephen Hawking's "Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays" published by Bantam Books is a collection of essays and speeches by Stephen Hawking during different times in his career, and like a cherry on top, it includes his 1992 interview with BBC Radio. Like the girl I got into an argument with, Stephen Hawking believes that we are very close to solving the puzzle of the Universe. He sets the tone in the introduction itself, with the words "The scientific articles in this volume were written in the belief that the universe is governed by an order that we can perceive partially now and that we may understand fully in the not-too-distant future. It may be that this hope is just a mirage; there may be no ultimate theory, and even if there is, we may not be able to find it. But it is surely better to strive for a complete understanding than to despair of the human mind." In the first two essays, "Childhood" and "Oxford and Cambridge", Hawking tells us briefly about the first few years of his life, and he makes it out as unremarkable. One feature of Hawking's writing throughout the book is that he maintains a largely impersonal tone, with an occasional sense of humour. This aloof attitude of his writing is further highlighted in his third essay (which is actually a speech transcript) - "My Experience with ALS". This speech transcript describing Stephen Hawking's unfortunate medical condition and its effect on him should arguably be the most attractive piece in the collection, given our morbid curiosity over other people's lives. But Hawking uses an unemotional tone, and describes the events alone. He concludes this speech making an effort to give all his listeners hope with the words "I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from my wife, my children and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly that is often the case. It shows that one need not lose hope." In the next two essays "Public Attitudes Towards Science" and "A Brief History of A Brief History", Hawking explains his belief that the public should be aware of the latest advancements in Science, and his own effort in making this possible by writing his most famous book - "A Brief History of Time". Hawking does not ignore the fact that though the book may be a best-seller, a lot of people use it to just adorn their bookshelves as a status symbol (The book lies untouched in my own bookshelf for about 7 years now. Note to self : Soon). Starting with the speech transcript "My Position", where he temporarily lets go his composure and indulges in a self-confessed harsh attack on Philosophers ("They are not in touch with the present frontier of Physics"), the next few essays get into real Physics. Though I couldn't understand the Physics part completely, I could get the broad ideas pretty well. This is largely due the fact that owing to their independent -by-themselves nature of the essays, Hawking gives a general idea of the same concepts multiple times throughout the collection. The final interview - "Desert Island Discs : An Interview" - is a delightful read. As a part of this very interesting show hosted at BBC Radio, the interviewer (Sue Lawley) manages to bring out different aspects to the very incidents that we encountered though Hawking's own words. For example, in answer to a question, Hawking explains the feeling of hopelessness on discovery of his medical condition better than he does in his own speech. A more musically inclined person than me would even take the chance to approve (or disapprove) of Hawking's taste in music. However my personal favorite in the whole collection is the essay titled "Is Everything Determined?", where armed with no emperical data to support him Hawking himself indulges in what he accuses the Philosophers of being guilty of - speculation. Touching over concepts of a pre-determined destiny, and the moral culpability of human actions in a pre-destined Universe, Hawking lets himself go (with an ironic sense of humour). On the whole, "Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays" is a very good read (at least for a scientifically non-inclined person like me). Hawking's writing is good and to the point, and his sense of mild humour ensures that all is not dull. Regardless of your agreement or disagreement (as in my case) with the statement from the book's Introduction I have quoted above, I would suggest that you go for this one. Note : This review and more of my writing can be found at my blog http://adarsh89.blogspot.com

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kat Main

    Verdict: Very good, would read again This was interesting for a few reasons: First, it was enlightening to hear about how Hawking grew up and how he discovered his passion for physics. Reading this bit helped me relate to the man a bit more, other than just knowing him for his intelligence and achievements. Second, the title caught my eye because the mystery of the black hole is fascinating to me. The mystery of the unknown. Hawking describes his findings on these mysterious objects within our ga Verdict: Very good, would read again This was interesting for a few reasons: First, it was enlightening to hear about how Hawking grew up and how he discovered his passion for physics. Reading this bit helped me relate to the man a bit more, other than just knowing him for his intelligence and achievements. Second, the title caught my eye because the mystery of the black hole is fascinating to me. The mystery of the unknown. Hawking describes his findings on these mysterious objects within our galaxy in a way that is understandable for one who has never formally studied physics.

  29. 5 out of 5

    молодо́й челове́к

    Skip it if you've read newer books on this topic or Hawkings life before. There is not much new in it here for you. But still worth reading as a starting point for a novice. Skip it if you've read newer books on this topic or Hawkings life before. There is not much new in it here for you. But still worth reading as a starting point for a novice.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    Much more ambitious book than I'd have expected judging by all the colorful pictures and a big font. Good read for anyone interested in black holes and in astrophysics in general. Much more ambitious book than I'd have expected judging by all the colorful pictures and a big font. Good read for anyone interested in black holes and in astrophysics in general.

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