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Hardcover Black Holes and Baby Universes Book

ISBN: 0553095234

ISBN13: 9780553095234

Black Holes and Baby Universes

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Book Overview

Readers worldwide have come to know the work of Stephen Hawking through his phenomenal million-copy hardcover best-sellerA Brief History of Time. Bantam is proud to present the paperback edition of... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings


An event horizon is the boundary of a black hole, defined by the light that can reach out that far and no further. Hawking himself sometimes uses pictorial metaphors to illustrate abstruse mathematical concepts, and this one occurred to me by way of an analogy of the brilliant illumination that I am trying to persuade to shine out far enough to reach my own dim wits hovering hopefully in the outer darkness. The whole `feel' of Hawking's discourses reminds me of the stories I have read about Einstein at work - placid, orderly and without excitement (or should I say `perturbation'?). Genius of this kind seems to be a kind of glorified knack - such minds just operate naturally with concepts of this kind, and there is no sense of effort or struggle. Sandwiched between some biographical material and a radio interview, the main material in this book is a collection of essays and lectures. They include Hawking's inaugural lecture at Cambridge where he occupies the chair of mathematics once held by Newton, and all are intended in the first place for an audience of his peers. On the other hand, where Newton and Einstein did not try to address the general public, Hawking, like Russell, seeks to do just that, and he does it superbly. The style of writing is both literate and unpretentious, and the occasional jokes are very good. Readers who, like myself, are intensely interested in the subject-matter but entirely lacking in natural aptitude for it, ought to find this book enormously helpful. There is a certain amount of repetition inevitably, but the more of that the better so far as I'm concerned. Any amateur trying to get a handle on mathematical concepts like these has to get into a mathematician's way of thinking as best he can and stop thinking as a layman. We can all understand the basics of gravitation without being Newton, but if we are still struggling with the general idea of the General Theory of Relativity in 2006 it's worth remembering that it was propounded in 1915 and that physics and astronomy have came on a long way since then, so we had better get our minds round it at last. At least as astounding to me as Hawking's triumph over his physical paralysis is the fact that this professor of mathematics at Cambridge never graduated in that subject. His degree subject was physics, allegedly on the grounds that the Oxford physics course was easy. Not easy enough to tempt me away from Latin and Greek, I must say, but doubtless for him. Mathematics is just a technique that Hawking invokes as a tool in his quest for a grand unified theory of the entire cosmos. This, said he 20 or 30 years ago, is something he hoped and largely expected could be achieved in 20 or 30 years. I'm sure we would have heard if he thought by now that he had got there, but he honours us with his ideas at the time of writing on the origin and future of the universe. The main obstacle to the final resolution of the issue is apparently that no one has yet successfully integra

13 essays + 1 interview transcript: get Prebble's recording

The essays are drawn largely from various lectures delivered by Hawking over the years; the occasion of each is mentioned as it comes up. Since they were designed to be spoken, it's worth getting a good recording of these as well as the book itself. I recommend the audio edition narrated by Simon Prebble over that read by Connor O'Brien, although the Prebble recording omits "DESERT ISLAND DISCS". (O'Brien's reading is very stilted, while Prebble conveys Hawking's sense of humour properly.) The first 3 essays, "Childhood", "Oxford and Cambridge", and "My Experience with ALS" are autobiographical, drawn from talks presented to various Motor Neurone Disease Societies in 1987, with material added in 1991. Much of this (particularly "My Experience with ALS") should be familiar to anyone who watched Errol Morris' A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME or read the transcript (STEPHEN HAWKING'S A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME: A READER'S COMPANION, edited by Gene Stone). To me, this material is most interesting taken together with the film and with Jane Hawking's MUSIC TO MOVE THE STARS. For example, the filmmakers followed up the professor's childhood friends who once bet a bag of sweets on whether he'd ever amount to anything, while Jane Hawking in her book discussed her theory that the professor (like their sons) is probably dyslexic, explaining why he learnt to read relatively late. "Public Attitudes Toward Science" (October 1989) isn't a history of science, but instead (after pointing out the drawbacks - and impossibility - of putting the clock back to a 'simpler' age) a talk about the need for basic scientific literacy for the general public to be able to make informed decisions. Hawking is careful to make clear that understanding the concepts, not the math, is fundamental. "A Brief History of A BRIEF HISTORY" (THE INDEPENDENT, December 1988) describes how Hawking came to write the book, first published on April Fools Day 1988, why he avoided heavy mathematics in it, and the predictable outline followed by many popular articles about Hawking and his book to this day. "My Position" (May 1992) "I would say that I am a realist in the sense that I think there is a universe out there waiting to be investigated and understood...But we cannot distinguish what is real about the universe without a theory...A theory is a good theory if it is an elegant model, if it describes a wide class of observations, and if it predicts the results of new observations. Beyond that, it makes no sense to ask if it corresponds to reality, because we do not know what reality is independent of a theory." Discussion of how better theories replace less complete theories, such as how Einstein's theory of relativity replaced the notions of absolute space and time, and some discussion of Schrodinger's cat experiment. (This last is even better if followed by reading THE SCIENCE OF DISCWORLD series). "Is the End in Sight for Theoretical Physics?" (April 1980) was Hawking's inaugural lecture as Lucasia


An excellent read, though I was alarmed at the prospect of the Earth being crushed by a super-massive black hole in around 3 billion years time. Then again, I'm a glass-half-empty sort of a person.

The 'child's wonder' book.

'Black Holes and Baby Universes' actually provokes more abstract than concrete thought, thus differing it from 'A Brief History of Time', in that it is written in a 'novel' style, rather than non-fiction reference.It would be difficult to say which to read first. Most of the essays are actually popular lectures he has given, while the others are reflections on his childhood and university days. With that in mind, one might feel more inclined to read 'A Brief History of Time' first so as to become acquainted with his thought and work, and then read how it all began in his memoirs. Then again his essays on the Quantum Mechanics of Black Holes, Baby Universes and Unified Theories do provide a strong introduction the specifics in his former book.His strong philosophical mind is explored in the essay 'Is Everything Determined' (even though he viciously attacked philosphers as having fallen behind science in a previous essay). Hawking's strong belief in the discovery of a unified theory to explain every aspect of physics in related form, implies that everything is determined, as he clarified towards the end of the essay.His humour is not absent and neither are his feelings on God, which remain neutral. This book is far more the 'popular' easy read book out of his two, as it is a combination of descriptive physics, odd philosophy and the light hearted. A 'child's wonder' book.

An excellent precursor to "A Brief History of Time"

Lucasian Professor Stephen W. Hawking once again puts "the big questions" into a much more readily digestable format than the general public would normally have access to...and avoids force-feeding us countless equations in doing so!While there are sections in this book which tend to confound many, it delves into the question of the creation of the universe and the philosophical ramifications of our actually finding the answer to that question. It offers subtle insights into "the man behind the mind" that awes so many people across the globe.You are reminded many times that it's not the body which restricts what can be accomplished, but the mind...and Hawking's is one mind which knows no apparrent bounds!While I must admit that this book contains a number of repetitions, this is noted at it's outset as an "at times irritating" byproduct of teh fact that the book is conprised of several essays written over a number of years. This relatively minor irritatation aside, if you are planning to purchase "A Brief History of Time", this is an excellent book as preparation for it.I would highly reccommend both books to anyone with a desire for the answers to bigger questions than "Where am I gonna eat lunch today?"
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