Mick Ross

'A Briefer History of Time' by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

It seems hard to believe that ‘A Brief History of Time’ is 23 years old now. I read that book three times because of my personal interest in theoretical physics and also because of the difficulty of some of the concepts. Others had similar difficulties and over the years petitioned Hawking to write another work that would try to simplify some of the concepts a little more. Hawking devotes areas to each of the most difficult ideas in physics today breaking down what was originally addressed in his previous work.

These concepts include quantum mechanics (an explanation of the physical behaviors at the atomic and sub-atomic levels), curved space (the curvature of space results in the effects of gravity), relativity (there is no way to detect absolute motion), the Grand Unified Theory (a theory that combines all of the fundamental forces of physics), dark matter (matter that cannot be directly detected but who’s gravitational effects can be seen and accounts for 90% of the matter in the universe), string theory (atomic particles are not points but rather one dimensional lines) and also the possibility of time travel.

In addition the book also includes chapters on Isaac Newton, Galileo Galile and Albert Einstein, briefly explaining their lives, research and challenges that helped to shape our understanding of modern physics.

'A Briefer History of Time' is a much more concise work written for ordinary people like me who enjoy these concepts.

Stephen Hawking is an English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, whose scientific books and public appearances have made him an academic celebrity. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and in 2009 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years, taking up the post in 1979 and retiring on 1 October 2009. He is now Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. He is also a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a Distinguished Research Chair at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. He is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology and quantum gravity, especially in the context of black holes. He has also achieved success with works of popular science in which he discusses his own theories and cosmology in general; these include the runaway best seller ‘A Brief History of Time’, which stayed on the British Sunday Times best-sellers list for a record-breaking 237 weeks.

Leonard Mlodinow was born in Chicago, Illinois, to immigrant Jewish parents who were holocaust survivors. He received his PhD in theoretical physics from the University of California at Berkeley, and is now at Caltech. His book ‘The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives’ was a New York Times Bestseller, Editor’s Choice, and Notable Book of the Year, and was short-listed for the Royal Society book award. His other books include two co-authored with physicist Stephen Hawking — ‘A Briefer History of Time’, and ‘The Grand Design’. In addition to his books and research articles, he has written for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Forbes magazine, among other publications, and for television series such as McGyver and Star Trek: the Next Generation.

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