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A Briefer History of Time
Cover of A Briefer History of Time
A Briefer History of Time
The Science Classic Made More Accessible
Borrow Borrow

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS
The science classic made more accessible
• More concise • Illustrated
FROM ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT MINDS OF OUR TIME COMES A BOOK THAT CLARIFIES HIS MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS
 
Stephen Hawking’s worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time remains a landmark volume in scientific writing. But for years readers have asked for a more accessible formulation of its key concepts—the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, and the history and future of the universe. A Briefer History of Time is Professor Hawking’s response.
Although “briefer,” this book is much more than a mere explanation of Hawking’s earlier work. A Briefer History of Time both clarifies and expands on the great subjects of the original, and records the latest developments in the field—from string theory to the search for a unified theory of all the forces of physics. Thirty-seven full-color illustrations enhance the text and make A Briefer History of Time an exhilarating and must-have addition in its own right to the great literature of science and ideas.

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHORS
The science classic made more accessible
• More concise • Illustrated
FROM ONE OF THE MOST BRILLIANT MINDS OF OUR TIME COMES A BOOK THAT CLARIFIES HIS MOST IMPORTANT IDEAS
 
Stephen Hawking’s worldwide bestseller A Brief History of Time remains a landmark volume in scientific writing. But for years readers have asked for a more accessible formulation of its key concepts—the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, and the history and future of the universe. A Briefer History of Time is Professor Hawking’s response.
Although “briefer,” this book is much more than a mere explanation of Hawking’s earlier work. A Briefer History of Time both clarifies and expands on the great subjects of the original, and records the latest developments in the field—from string theory to the search for a unified theory of all the forces of physics. Thirty-seven full-color illustrations enhance the text and make A Briefer History of Time an exhilarating and must-have addition in its own right to the great literature of science and ideas.

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  • Chapter One Chapter One


    Thinking About the Universe

    We live in a stragne and wonderful universe. Its age, size, violence, and beauty require extraordinary imagination to appreciate. The place we humans hold within this vast cosmos can seem pretty insignificant. And so we try to make sense of it all and to see how we fit in. Some decades ago, a well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: "What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant turtle." The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, "What is the turtle standing on?" "You're very clever, young man, very clever," said the old lady. "But it's turtles all the way down!"

    Most people nowadays would find the picture of our universe as an infinite tower of turtles rather ridiculous. But why should we think we know better? Forget for a minute what you know-or think you know-about space. Then gaze upward at the night sky. What would you make of all those points of light? Are they tiny fires? It can be hard to imagine what they really are, for what they really are is far beyond our ordinary experience. If you are a regular stargazer, you have probably seen an elusive light hovering near the horizon at twilight. It is a planet, Mercury, but it is nothing like our own planet. A day on Mercury lasts for two-thirds of the planet's year. Its surface reaches temperatures of over 400 degrees Celsius when the sun is out, then falls to almost -200 degrees Celsius in the dead of night. Yet as different as Mercury is from our own planet, it is not nearly as hard to imagine as a typical star, which is a huge furnace that burns billions of pounds of matter each second and reaches temperatures of tens of millions of degrees at its core.

    Another thing that is hard to imagine is how far away the planets and stars really are. The ancient Chinese built stone towers so they could have a closer look at the stars. It's natural to think the stars and planets are much closer than they really are-after all, in everyday life we have no experience of the huge distances of space. Those distances are so large that it doesn't even make sense to measure them in feet or miles, the way we measure most lengths. Instead we use the light-year, which is the distance light travels in a year. In one second, a beam of light will travel 186,000 miles, so a light-year is a very long distance. The nearest star, other than our sun, is called Proxima Centauri (also known as Alpha Centauri C), which is about four light-years away. That is so far that even with the fastest spaceship on the drawing boards today, a trip to it would take about ten thousand years.

    Ancient people tried hard to understand the universe, but they hadn't yet developed our mathematics and science. Today we have powerful tools: mental tools such as mathematics and the scientific method, and technological tools like computers and telescopes. With the help of these tools, scientists have pieced together a lot of knowledge about space. But what do we really know about the universe, and how do we know it? Where did the universe come from? Where is it going? Did the universe have a beginning, and if so, what happened before then? What is the nature of time? Will it ever come to an end? Can we go backward in time? Recent breakthroughs in physics, made possible in part by new...

About the Author-
  • Stephen Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for thirty years and the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the presidential Medal of Freedom. His books for the general reader include My Brief History, the classic A Brief History of Time, the essay collection Black Holes and Baby Universes, The Universe in a Nutshell, and, with Leonard Mlodinow, A Briefer History of Time and The Grand Design. Stephen Hawking died in 2018.
    Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist and the author of Feynman’s Rainbow, Euclid’s Window, and The Drunkard’s Walk. He lives in Pasadena, California.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 1, 1988
    Hawking's discovery that black holes emit particles caused great excitement among astronomers. In this succinct overview of current theories of the cosmos, the Cambridge University physicist modestly weaves in his own notable contributions while giving due credit to his colleagues. He explains why relativity implies that a "big bang'' occurred and examines string theory, which posits a universe of 10 or 26 dimensions. His understanding of time's flow leads him to conclude that intelligent beings can only exist during the expansion phase of our increasingly chaotic universe. New research on black holes and subatomic particles holds implications for scientists who, like Hawking, are attempting to devise a unified theory linking Einstein to quantum mechanics. The merit of this book is Hawking's ability to make these ideas graspable by the lay reader.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from September 26, 2005
    In the 17 years since the publication of A Brief History of Time, Dr. Hawking's bestselling exposition of physics, new data from particle physics and observational astronomy have shed light on efforts to find a Grand Unified Theory of Everything that Hawking and Mlodinow use to enhance and update their answers to basic questions about the universe: where it's going and how it began. Discussed at length are the mysterious dark matter and dark energy-both of which can only be observed by their gravitational effects and are believed to make up 90 percent of the universe. Another area of research that has exploded in the past 20 years is string theory. Hawking and Mlodinow provide one of the most lucid discussions of this complex topic ever written for a general audience. Readers will come away with an excellent understanding of the apparent contradictions and conundrums at the forefront of contemporary physics. Recognizing that much of their audience will also be science fiction buffs, they include a chapter on the possibility of time travel. "Don't bet on it," the authors advise. Throughout these discussions, the authors maintain the same wry, lively tone that made the original Brief History such a delight. They close with a discussion of where physics ends and philosophy begins, "Why does the universe exist at all?" They cannot provide the answer, but they do provide an immense amount of food for thought. Highly recommended.

  • The New York Review of Books "[Hawking] can explain the complexities of cosmological physics with an engaging combination of clarity and wit. . . . His is a brain of extraordinary power."
  • The New York Times "Lively and provocative . . . Mr. Hawking clearly possesses a natural teacher's gifts--easy, good-natured humor and an ability to illustrate highly complex propositions with analogies plucked from daily life."
  • Time "Even as he sits helpless in his wheelchair, his mind seems to soar ever more brilliantly across the vastness of space and time to unlock the secrets of the universe."
  • The Sunday Times (London) "This book marries a child's wonder to a genius's intellect. We journey into Hawking's universe while marvelling at his mind."
  • The Wall Street Journal "A masterful summary of what physicists now think the world is made of and how it got that way."
  • The New Yorker

    "Charming and lucid . . . [a book of] sunny brilliance."
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