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Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other…

Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)

by Stephen W. Hawking

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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In this book Hawking talks about his life and about his major areas of interest in his researches.
The book is a collection of updated essays and speeches concerning the cosmology and related topics. Hawking explains scientifically, and explains his explanations using a clear and understandable language.
Like always, Steven Hawking makes even the most complex theory sound simple. ( )
  Haidji | Aug 3, 2015 |
A long drive called for a good audio book. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays by Stephen Hawking fit the bill. Hawking is the famous physicist who also has ALS.

Hawking published this book in 1993, five years after he published his bestseller A Brief History of Time.

I wanted to post this review as soon as I could while I could still remember and sort of understand the gist of what Hawking was saying. The first 1/4 of the book is autobiographical, him explaining his upbringing and love for cosmology. The rest are a compilation of essays and lectures he gave to various groups over two decades.

Hawking's research has primarily been on black holes. Much of what we know/suspect about black holes can be attributed to him. I'm awed by the mathematical concepts that had to be invented to do the research that he and other physicists do. There's a point where mathematics becomes philosophical-- and that is the deep soul of physics and cosmology.

His lectures always point to the quest for the grand unified theory of the universe (GUT). This is the one theory that will explain how everything in the universe works. As the years in the lectures progress, it becomes obvious to me that the GUT becomes a sort of deity, Hawking has said if we can know it we "can know the mind of God." It raises all sorts of philosophical questions about predestination and free will.

Here's the main point I got from the book and Hawking's work: If the universe is unlimited in scope then the laws of physics were the same at its creation as they are now. The universe was not created nor can be destroyed--it just is.
However, if the universe is actually limited in scope, then the laws of physics didn't apply at its creation as they do today. Some outside entity must be responsible for its creation.

Hawking believes the former, and I'm betting on the latter.

Hawking invented something called imaginary time. Kind of complex to attempt to explain here, essentially imaginary time is the sum of all possible points in time. Think about alternate realities, all the possible variations of possible histories. If you look at things through the lens of imaginary time (which is a heavy mathematical concept) then things like the Big Bang no longer become troublesome singularities where the laws of physics don't apply, but become like any other event in history.

Interestingly, Hawking believed in 1992 that the GUT was only about 20 years away, and inhabiting other planets less than 100 years away. Looks like is probably wrong on those. Apparently, new research has led Hawking to change his mind on some of his beliefs, and published another book recently. I've read recently about a high-powered particle accelerator being built to test several theories in physics. One guy in Hawaii is actually suing to get the scientists to stop because he fears they will create a black hole here on earth. The work of that particle accelerator will have profound implications for all of science, however.

This book reminded me that in talking about Biblical creation you have to start at the very beginning--when the universe was created. I think most Biblical creation apologists are biology-oriented and therefore don't have the mathematical understanding needed to develop a good Christian apologetic against theories like the ones Hawking purports. There are a few really good redeemed physicists out there, however. ( )
1 vote justindtapp | Jun 3, 2015 |
This collection of essays by the famous Steven Hawking consists of pieces published by him between 1976 and 1992. Some chapters consist of autobiographical sketches, on his childhood, his education at Oxford and Cambridge, his experience with ALS (a motor disease), and his unexpected best-seller A Brief History of Time. One chapter deals with the future of theoretical physics, and another, with Einstein's ideas. (In discussing relativity, Hawking jokes: "you would have to fly around the earth 400 million times to add one second to your life; but your life would be reduced by more than that by all those airline meals")

Other essays in this collection deal with the origins of the universe, the future of the universe, the nature of black holes, and whether all events are determined (i.e., caused). (Regarding the latter, he answers "yes" but that "it might as well not be because we can never know what [result] has been determined.") A concluding piece is from a radio interview with BBC's "Desert Island Discs," in which Hawking reveals his five favorite/ indispensable recordings: "Gloria", by Polenc; Brahm's "Violin Concerto"; "The Valkyrie;" the Beatles' "Please Please Me"; and Edith Piaf's "je ne regrette rien".

All of the essays, even those dealing with astrophysics and cosmology, are quite readable by the general public. I found the autobiographical pieces less revealing than they might have been -- but Hawking guards his privacy, as he is of course entitled to do. Overall, I found these essays mildly interesting, and a reasonable introduction to life and ideas of one of history's greatest scientists. ( )
4 vote danielx | Dec 24, 2012 |
Now nearly 20 years old, Stephen Hawking's collection of essays are rather a mixed bag. Some of his personal stories about his youth and contracting ALS have been repeated to some extent in other works, most of this I heard before. The quantum physics still causes glassy eyes, more so than the astrophysics anyway. On a windy day like today, though, the book had me contemplating whether a black hole the size of a proton (containing the mass of a mountain) could serve as a paperweight and keep the book from blowing shut.

Hawking is probably the most unique, remarkable scientist in human history -- not just for his achievements, but considering the debilitating handicap he has managed to overcome. I'll keep reading his stuff because comprehension seems so close...but my brain short circuits when I try to connect all of the dots (especially quantum dots). ( )
2 vote JeffV | May 26, 2012 |
Readers worldwide have come to know the work of Stephen Hawking through his phenomenal bestseller, The Brief History of Time. Now, in his first collection of essays and other pieces -- on subjects that range from the warmly personal to the wholly scientific -- Stephen Hawking is revealed variously as the scientist, the man, the concerned world citizen, and -- as always -- the rigorous and imaginative thinker. Whether he is remembering his first experience of nursery school; puncturing the arrogance of those who think science can best be understood only by other scientists and should be left to them; exploring the origins and the future of the universe; or reflecting on the phenomenon of A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking's wit, directness of style and absence of pomp are vital characteristics at all times.
1 vote | rajendran | Aug 19, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stephen W. Hawkingprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Oriolo, RichardDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553374117, Paperback)


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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:32 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The bestselling follow-up to Hawking's phenomenal million-copy hardcover bestseller A Brief History of Time is now available in trade paperback. These 14 pieces reveal Hawking variously as the scientist, the man, the concerned world citizen, and--always--the rigorous and imaginative thinker. Readers worldwide have come to know the work of Stephen Hawking through his phenomenal million-copy hardcover best-seller A Brief History of Time. Bantam is proud to present the paperback edition of Dr. Hawking's first new book since that event, a collection of fascinating and illuminating essays, and a remarkable interview broadcast by the BBC on Christmas Day, 1992. Hawking's wit, directness of style, and absence of pomp characterize all of them, whether he is remembering his first experience at nursery school; calling for adequate education in science that will enable the public to play its part in making informed decisions on matters such as nuclear disarmament; exploring the origins of the future of the universe; or reflecting on the history of A Brief History of Time. Black Holes and Baby Universes is an important work from one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century.… (more)

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