Guide A Natural History of Time

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University of Chicago Press: About Contact News Giving to the Press. Gems and Gemstones Lance Grande. Watching Vesuvius Sean Cocco. Pascal Richet Translated by John Venerella. Today, science and technology have advanced to such a point that we tend to think mainly about their dangers—nuclear weapons, global warming, cloning. Yet our lives are supported by an immense edifice of scientific ingenuity, which we seldom understand or even think about.

Richet reminds us that each acre of the continent of modern science was won back from an ocean of ignorance, by the hard work and intellectual courage of individuals. William Bryant Logan Globe and Mail. Robert Birnbaum Book Digest. A book that even readers with only a modest understanding of science will find easy to read, yet which is rich enough in its narrative to satisfy even the most knowledgeable specialist. I cannot imagine a better attempt at such a broad sweep through science and history. David Toomey The Historian. Brush Journal for the History of Astronomy.

There are irritating writing practices that could have used some editing, e. My biggest complaints, however, are about his philosophical opinions.

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Obviously he is entitled to think as he wishes about the ultimate questions, but his assertion that his hypothesis of a finite world without beginning or end would leave no place for God seems beside the point. The classic divide has not changed: That argument hasn't changed with his theories. At one point in the book he claims that the late John Paul II told gathered scientists that they mustn't inquire into the Big Bang because that was God's territory.

I would wager with anyone reading this comment that such an assertion is just plain false. JPII was a flawed mortal, to be sure, but he was no dope; it certainly sounds to me like someone hearing what he thinks the pope would say. And the Galileo jokes are pretty dumb -- does anyone think that JPII, who apologized for the embarrassing Galileo fiasco, would go after this guy? It must be all that influence the Vatican has had in Britain over the last years that has him scared.


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Other philosophical complaints involve his use of entropy he defines it first within closed systems and then uses it to explain why the "thermodynamic arrow of time" and the "personal arrow of time" must run in the same direction -- leaping from a box of molecules to the entire universe! His opinions may be very rich, deep, though-provoking, but how would I or most general readers know?

You can't really evaluate a judgment unless you know something in the field. And so that is why I ultimately cannot recommend this book: If you don't, you can only walk around parroting what he says about black holes as if you had a clue what you were talking about. What we all really need is a remedial course in physics! View all 8 comments. View all 12 comments. Feb 07, Jason Koivu rated it it was amazing Shelves: Isn't it amazing that a person can read a book like A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and come away feeling both smarter and dumber than before he started?

What a universe we live in! It's quite short and generally a quick read. Some of it is just history, say on Newton and such. However, there were a few pages worth of passages where my wee brain felt like it was getting sucked into a black hole I came away with a better understanding of the Big Bang theory and why it's plausible Not the tv show. Its existence is not plausible. That's going to require a reread Surprisingly, I also came away with the idea that God and science can coexist.

I didn't expect that. I figured someone like Hawking would be like, "God? A Brief History of Time was written with accessibility in mind, knowing full well idiots like me wouldn't buy it, read it or recommend it if it were impossibly dense. Hawking's sense of humor even comes through on occasion, which is always appreciated in these sciencey texty thingies.

Review: A Natural History of Time

So, I'll probably move on to his Briefer History View all 9 comments. People who like physics but are not physicists. I still wonder where I ended up getting this book, and it had been sitting on my shelf for quite a while probably because I was too busy listening to people tell me why I shouldn't read this book , but it wasn't until John Lennox said that it was the most unfinished book that is people start reading it but do not have the staying power to get to the end ever written I'm sure there are other books that beat this book though.

There are quite a few things that I have discovered while reading this book, and it is these discoveries that I wish to share with you: However, that statement could not be further from the truth. In fact, throughout the book the question of the existence of God perpetually hangs in the background. Granted, Hawkings does suggest that if the concept of a infinite bounded universe don't ask turns out to be true then it would undermine God's existence, however he does not actually say that this may be the case.

In fact his final sentence in this book is that the reason we study physics and try to find a unified theory is because we, as a race, seek to understand the mind of God. While he is involved in some very serious and complicated research he is able to write in a way that many of us who have probably studied physics up to a year twelve level that is the end of High school can understand. Okay, I probably have an advantage over most other people since my Dad is a theoretical physicist that we have regular conversations about some of these high level concepts such as by having any more than three dimensions would cause the orbits of the planets to collapse , but I still found that he was very easy to follow and he explained many of these high level concepts in a way that many of us could understand.


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  7. Okay, they probably don't spend their time at the comic book store, or arguing whether Babylon Five is better than Star Trek actually, one of my primary school friends is a theoretical physicist, and we did have such an argument , but they do seem to see the world in a way that we ordinary people would consider strange. For instance, we see space as flat, meaning that if we look at a star, as far as we are concerned the star is in that direction.

    However physicists see space as being curved and that a straight line is not necessarily straight. We would see a brick wall as being a solid object and that the idea of walking through one would result in a sore nose. However physicists see it as being made up of mostly space, and the only reason we can't walk through it is because the nuclear forces forces that exist inside an atom, not the force that can level an entire city prevent us for doing so.

    Then there is the concept of dimensions: Even Hawking argues, using the second law of thermodynamics, that the universe cannot move from a state of disorder to a state of order — a broken plate simply cannot mend itself. However, the argument also goes that with the Big Bang Theory not the television show that the universe began in a state of disorder and moved to a state of order, however the laws of physics seem to suggest otherwise because what the big bang did was sent in motion a series of laws that caused the universe to come about to what we have at the moment.

    However, to go into details would require some intense theoretical physics, something which I have do desire to delve into at the moment. Okay, if light were travelling through a vacuum where there are no external forces acting upon it, then it is a constant, but that is very rarely the case. Take for instance this phenomena: Thus my point is proven, the speed of light is only a constant when there are no external forces acting upon it. So, what external forces may act upon light in space. Well, first of all there are black holes. When light hits a black hole the force of gravity is so strong that it will actually prevent light from escaping.

    Thus, gravity is a force that effects light and slows it down. Then there is the concept of dark matter , which are clouds of matter that do not emit light and float between the star systems.

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    Okay, we know very little about the stuff and it is also a theory, so it has not been proven but my hypothesis is that if this stuff exists then would it not have an effect upon light, namely by slowing it down, which means that there is a possibility that our calculations as to the distance of stars from our own Sun could actually be wrong? A theory is an idea that has some foundation based on mathematical calculations and empirical evidence. Therein lies the problem. Much of our understanding of the universe is based upon mathematical calculations, and it appears that if an event comes about which causes this mathematical calculation to break down, they immediately set out to try to find another mathematical equation to plug the hole.

    Take light for instance. For years we believed that light acted as a wave and suddenly it was discovered that it also behaves like a particle a particle of light is called a photon. The same goes with matter — for years we believed that they were particles when all of the sudden we discovered that they can also behave like waves. As such, our understanding of the universe suddenly breaks down meaning that we are not necessarily made up of atoms, but have wavelike properties as well.

    Mathematical equations have been very destructive in out modern world. Take the Global Financial Crisis for instance. A bunch of apparently really smart people create complex mathematical equations to determine when to buy and sell shares and how to make billions of dollars. However what these equations did not take into account was the fact that people could not simply continue to accumulate debt without having to pay it back and when people began to default on their loans enmass, the whole concept broke down and we were taken to the brink of financial armageddon.

    Another point goes back to Ancient Greece. Here we have the theory of Democritus, namely that matter was not infinitely indivisible the smallest piece of matter is an atom , and then the theory of Aristotle, that is that matter is infinitely divisible. Scientists preferred Democritus' theory, however they soon discovered that you could break down the atom into protons and neutrons, and you could even break them down to quarks. So, maybe Aristotle was right after all. We know how to make a nuclear bomb, as well as a smart phone, so we don't question what they say, because it obviously works.

    However, as a friend of mine once said, it is still all based on theory, and just because something works does not necessarily mean that the theory is correct. Remember that penicillin was discovered by blind chance. As Hawking points out, there are four forces that have been identified: Out of those four forces five if you divide electric and magnetic, but since electricity will create a magnetic force, they are effectively combined only gravity stands out.

    This is probably why Hawking spends so much time talking about black holes because black holes are where the gravitational pull is so strong that not even light can escape from its grasp. The other thing is that gravity does not, at least in our knowledge, have an opposing force. Gravity basically sucks, and that is all it does — it doesn't repulse as the other forces can. It is interesting that in some texts that I have read maybe it is speculative science-fiction but I simply cannot remember off the top of my head some people have suggested that gravity is actually a force from another universe that affects our universe and what it is effectively doing is sucking our universe into their universe.

    However, as I have said, that is incredibly speculative, and since I am not a theoretical physicist I can't really say any more on the subject.

    This goes back to the days of paganism and Medieval Europe where all of the unknown forces, such as the weather, was attributed God or the gods and we could not know anything beyond that fact. However I am arguing that it is a cop out.

    Review: A Natural History of Time | NCSE

    Creation scientists who resort to this argument are at best lazy and at worst dangerous. The reason I say that is that it discourages research into areas that we do not understand. Okay, we may never be able to control the weather, or predict earthquakes, but that does not mean that we should throw our hands up in the air and say 'this is too hard'.

    While I may be taking a swipe at creation scientists here, I would also take a swipe at the atheists who claim that there is no God. The reason I say that is because there seems to be a fear within the scientific community that suggests that we may not be able to know everything, or that our understanding of the universe may be wrong. The problem that arises is that if we throw the idea of God out of the window and claim that the universe came about by chance, then we deny the fact that we live in an incredibly ordered universe that we can learn and understand through the development of mathematical formulae.

    If a formulae turns out to be wrong, that does not mean that the universe will collapse in on itself — it won't — it just means that we have to go back to the drawing board and start over from scratch. The Bible is not a scientific text, and it was never meant to be a scientific text. It is a theological text that tells us how we should live with one another and how we should view God.

    Science exists beyond the Bible, and neither contradicts the other. Okay, granted, God has intervened in this world and done things that break the laws of science, but doesn't he have a right to do that — he created the universe? However, what the Bible tells us is that God is a god of order, and if he is a god of order then does it not make sense that the universe that he created is an ordered universe?

    So, maybe you are looking for a whiz bang conclusion to my exposition on this book, but all I can say is that what I have written above pretty much sums up what I have learnt from this book. In a nutshell hey, this is me in a nutshell , all I can say is that what I have learnt from this book is that the world is an amazingly ordered place in which we live, and having now completed this book I am just as committed to my Christian faith as I ever was.

    However, if theoretical physics fascinates you, then this is certainly a book that you should give a read though you have probably done that already. This review also appears on my blog. I have also commented on this book in my review on Interstellar. View all 24 comments. A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes is a popular-science book on cosmology the study of the universe by British physicist Stephen Hawking.

    It was first published in Hawking wrote the book for nonspecialist readers with no prior knowledge of scientific theories. Apr 19, Mohammed-Makram rated it really liked it Shelves: View all 4 comments. I both loved and hated this book. I definitely should never have read this book, cut the pages, opened the box, etc.. Look, no doubt the guy is a genius and has a fantastic story ALS, computer voice, nurses, Black Holes, strippers, movies, etc. Let another writer do the pop-up Children's book with the scratch-n-sniff singularity, the rotating black hole, the pull-out universe.

    Hawking doing smart stuff. Let Bill Bryson write the summary science. But it is too late for me. I already crossed the damn event horizon. I've just become entangled with his book, so my "observer state" now corresponds to the damn book and the damn book review being both five stars and 1 stars is no longer a possibility; my reader state is entangled or linked now with my own review so that the "observation of the book review's state" and the "review's state" correspond with each other. Hey, now to go see some movies about blackholes and wormholes and assholes.

    View all 5 comments. Nov 22, Manny rated it it was ok Shelves: Apparently this book tops the world list of "bought but not read", which may explain why it's so universally acclaimed as a work of genius. If you know anything much about relativity or cosmology, it comes across as a potboiler, admittedly a well-written one with a great final sentence. Then buy A Brief History of Rhyme. View all 29 comments.


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    Aug 30, Matthew rated it it was ok. Hawking is a brilliant physicist and a true expert in explaining highly complex aspects of our physical universe in terms that can be understood by most lay people. Where Hawking fails, in my opinion, is his hubris. He proceeds in to the realm of metaphysics and religion in several portions of this book.

    For instance, in his chapter on the "arrow of time", he states that, essentially, the universe can only move in one direction of time. It cannot go backwards. He also states that this limits the Hawking is a brilliant physicist and a true expert in explaining highly complex aspects of our physical universe in terms that can be understood by most lay people. He also states that this limits the powers of God himself. Now, Hawking never qualifies those statements by defining "God". However, if he is talking about the Biblical God, how can you honestly think you're so intelligent as to place limits on a limitless being?

    If God is so powerful as to have created the universe and all the physical laws, why wouldn't he be powerful enough to change those laws any time he chooses? It is the same concept as a scientist creating a computer simulation of the universe. The scientist can, at any time during the simulation, alter the underlying framework of the simulation, effectively changing the physical laws that simulated universe operates under.

    Now, whether you believe in God or not, the mere fact that Hawking has the audacity to think he can assign limits on a limitless being should cause you some concern. Hawking, because of his fame and brilliance, is a man that people listen to when he speaks.

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    That gives him immense power over the minds of his readers. He should be more careful in choosing his words. When Hawking sticks to his strengths, however, the book is second to none. Hawking truly has a gift of explaining the powerful forces that shape our lives in ways anyone can understand. If this book had been edited better, it would have received a few more stars from me, but I can't reward stubborn scientific pride resulting in false assumptions.

    View all 17 comments. Manny says this book is in the "bought but not read" category for most people. Well, I'm proud to say that I bought and read it, that too in nearly one sitting - back in my geeky days, when I used to get a sexual high just from solving a hard maths puzzle. Unfortunately, I don't remember much of it time for a re-read! Being Indian, I loved this - because we are strong champions of cyclical time. Also, if time and space are both curved, Manny says this book is in the "bought but not read" category for most people. Also, if time and space are both curved, it creates the possibility of jumping from one place and time to another; which is just delicious.

    I bought a pirated edition of this book for 25 rupees from the roadside at Connaught Place in New Delhi. The vendor asked for 50, I said 25, and the bargaining was just starting when he spied a policeman approaching - so he let me have it for whatever I was offering! Dec 08, Trevor rated it really liked it Shelves: The main idea to take away from this book is that time has a clear direction.

    Entropy is the idea that the universe moves from highly ordered states to less ordered states.