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When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing? What is the nature of reality? Why are the laws of nature so finely tuned as to allow for the existence of beings like ourselves? And, finally, is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation?
The most fundamental questions about the origins of the universe and of life itself, once the province of philosophy, now occupy the territory where scientists, philosophers, and theologians meet—if only to disagree. In their new book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by both brilliance and simplicity.
In The Grand Design they explain that according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. When applied to the universe as a whole, this idea calls into question the very notion of cause and effect. But the “top-down” approach to cosmology that Hawking and Mlodinow describe would say that the fact that the past takes no definite form means that we create history by observing it, rather than that history creates us. The authors further explain that we ourselves are the product of quantum fluctuations in the very early universe, and show how quantum theory predicts the “multiverse”—the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature.
Along the way Hawking and Mlodinow question the conventional concept of reality, posing a “model-dependent” theory of reality as the best we can hope to find. And they conclude with a riveting assessment of M-theory, an explanation of the laws governing us and our universe that is currently the only viable candidate for a complete “theory of everything.” If confirmed, they write, it will be the unified theory that Einstein was looking for, and the ultimate triumph of human reason.
A succinct, startling, and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, The Grand Design is a book that will inform—and provoke—like no other.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Brandi on 10-14-10
Hawking succeeds in mind-blowing physics, real
Once I started listening to this book, I paused only briefly,then listened all the way through. THE GRAND DESIGN delivers on promises to explain incomprehensibly abstract concepts in a manner accessible to non scientists. The topics were discussed thoroughly, and the analagies given helped me to picture the various acrobatics of teeny tiny particles. The scientific method, it's history, and rocky road to the elegant system of understanding reality we have today, were also described, in terms of "sciences'" own mistakes and ravenously canibalistic culture where truth/evidence/transparency/descriptive and prescriptive powers are valued more than the feelings/reputation of any given scientist. This book does a great job of explaining WHY some deeply held "values" are fallacious, and based on specious arguments, and can be easily deconstructed. I enjoyed listening as such seeemingly odd physics were detailed, because the quantum world is so counter intuitive to our macro world. I recommend this book more so than "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME", because this new book is entirely more entertaining and compelling. It is a lovely addition to the many wonderful books, written by non believers, which popularize science, and more importantly, teach critical thinking.
19 of 21 people found this review helpful
By Kristopher on 09-16-10
A GREAT book but not purely science
I thoroughly enjoyed the journey that this book took me on. It was a great overview of a lot of physics that I already knew through many other readings, but also a great lesson in the history of man's knowledge about the world and universe we live in. While the authors do overextend themselves to a realm outside of physics when trying to declare the lack of need of God, I share their belief so I appreciated their conclusions. There will be many knocks on this book for stepping outside their box, but that WAS their point. While this is a science book written by physicists, it is also their take on the question of the origin of life, the universe, and everything. Just read the title, it's not called "How Physics Explains the Universe".
33 of 38 people found this review helpful