Book Review – The Theory of Everything – Stephen Hawking

the theory of everything

Book Review


The Theory of Everything

Author: Stephen W Hawking

Published by: Jaico Publishing House

Genre: Science

Publishing Year: May 2002

Language: English

Pages: 131

(Image Credits: Jaico Publishing House)

 

The Theory of Everything by Stephen Hawking is a compilation of seven chapters. The work in this compilation is delivered by Dr. Hawking in which he tried to deliberate various important theories like – Special Theory of Relativity, Big Bang, Black Hole, Quantum Gravity and String theory, to finally intend a ‘Unified Theory’. It is supposed that a unified theory of the universe exists, which one day might be able to take every known theory into account and give us an explanation of the reality of the universe. Based on this idea, Dr. Hawking is trying to represent the connection between the theories.

This book also presents some of the most complex theories about the expansion of the universe, the origin of everything & the direction of time. It also sounds interesting from its title. Dr. Hawking briefly describes the ideas of the universe from Aristotle, Newton, Einstein, Augustine, Hubble, Friedman, Galileo, and many more scientists and philosophers. In 1928, an Indian astronomer, Subramanyam Chandrasekhar calculated that a cold star of more than about one and half times the mass of the sun would not be able to support itself against its own gravity. This mass is now acknowledged as the Chandrasekhar limit.

 

Writing Style

Some of the interesting questions which are discussed in the book are – Why don’t we notice all extra dimensions if they are really there? Why do we see only three spaces and one facet? The suggestions are that the other dimensions are curved up into space of very small size, something like a million millionth of an inch. This is so small that we just don’t notice it.

However, the discovery of a complete unified theory of everything is very difficult, so we have made progress by finding partial theories. He also explained that how the universe would have started in a smooth and ordered state and as time went on it become unsmooth and disordered. It seems that the universe is evolving according to some well-defined laws of nature. We don’t know if that may be designed by God, but it seems that we can disorder and understand these laws.

According to the author, the laws of physics do not distinguish between the past and the future. In other words, life would just the same for inhabitants of another planet who were our mirror images and who were made of antimatter. Hawking discussed many interesting questions in the book, which everyone likes to talk about, but he has not included the mathematical part much. Without those equations, nobody can understand what’s going on actually. He tried to keep the language as simple as possible so that everyone can enjoy the book.

This book can be a boon for theoretical physics lovers. The author didn’t present anything which can’t be understood. He kept the language simple and easily understandable. The author mixes science and philosophy. It exhibits a subtle sense of humor in the book. It’s a short read. Stephen Hawking also poses interesting questions about God. Many times Hawking also discussed two completely different branches – science and philosophy. He tried to make sense to his readers by using very general examples so that everyone can taste what he is trying to explain.

There’s no doubt that Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s greatest minds: a theoretical physicist who helped to recognize models of the universe beautifully and to redefine what’s in it. Young scientists can imagine sitting in a room listening to Hawking discuss these achievements and place them in historical documents. It would be a great feeling for many people.

 

About Chapters of the Book

Lecture 1 of the book, the book starts with the ancient theories on universe evaluation and gradually explains the reasons for the non-feasibility of the universe in a structured manner. Although, while explaining Chandrasekhar’s limit he didn’t use any mathematical expression to explain how black holes are formed.

In the lecture, he also tried to explain the origin of the universe or the big bang and illuminated some theories like the expansion of the universe, but it’s all done with the help of words only. Basically, he outlined all the complex theories of science. The first lecture is a kind of flashback to the history of scientific developments, in which the old ideas of the beginning of the universe are discussed.

The second lecture, describes the theories of Newton and Einstein, that the universe is either expanding or contracting but not be static. An explanation of the big bang in layman’s language is one of the book’s most interesting parts. There’s no mathematical part in this lecture, but the ideas and theories discussed are very good. Friedmann’s model of expanding the universe is also discussed in a separate topic.

The third lecture talks about black holes, how they are formed. Also, there’s some information about singularities that might be useful for many students. The 4th and 5th chapters talk about the quantum mechanics of energy that leaks out from a black hole. From these two lectures, 4th lecture is completely dedicated to black hole study. This chapter is highly informative and represents the brilliancy of Hawking’s work.

Coming to the 5th lecture, this lecture mainly talks about the origin and fate of the universe through quantum mechanics. Also, there’s a discussion about the second law of thermodynamics in this lecture. Moreover, it also contains an open question for the readers, which you will find interesting. Stephen Hawking beautifully represented the connection between the second law of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics.

In the 6th lecture he talks about his quantum mechanical ideas of the big bang and the origin of the universe, this lecture needs a second time reading to understand, it’s because quantum mechanics is not an easy topic to understand. This lecture includes many interesting topics including The Arrow of Time. Hawking clarified that laws of physics do not distinguish between the past and future. One more aspect of time is also discussed with the help of psychological explanation.  

The seventh and final lecture is about the most renowned unified theory of science, he labeled it “the unification of physics”. Hawking encourages readers to discover the one single unified theory of physics. He says that – it’s the best time to look for a unified theory because we have a good knowledge of science at this time. Hawking closes the seventh lecture with an optimistic view of science which I found very realistic.

 

Final Review

Hawking’s representation from the big bang to string theory that captures not only the brilliance of Hawking’s mind but his characteristic as well. Of his research on black holes, which absorbed him for more than a decade, he says “It might seem a bit like looking for a black can in coal cellar.” It is essential to note that, the book is not for learning different theories of science and practice numerical. It is just for getting a rough idea about the theories of physics and astronomy.

The style in which Hawking begins the book with a history of ideas about the universe, from Aristotle’s determination that the earth is round to Hubble’s discovery is very much appreciable, Over 2000 years later that the universe is expanding, using this idea as a launching pad, he explores the reaches of modern physics, including theories on the origin of the universe, the nature of the black holes, and space-time. Finally, he mentions the question left unanswered by modern physics, especially how to connect all the partial theories into a “unified theory of everything”. If we can find the solution to that, he claims, it would be the ultimate victory of human reason.

Dr. Hawking says “Sometimes when we look at the evening sky, observe a shooting star for away or admire the beauty of the moon, we are overpowered by this idea of our seemingly insignificant existence in the universe. For if we compare our very own presence, that of our world or our country, even of our planet or our galaxy with the universe, it is bewildering that we seem to occupy not even a speck of dust as compared to the vastness of the universe.”

He also wished that the improvements in theoretical and practical science should be “understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just by a few scientists.” In this book, he offers a fascinating voyage of discovery about the cosmos and our place in it.  It is a book for anyone who has ever gazed at the night sky and wondered what was there and how it came to be. It’s also widely available at a very reasonable price.

 

Should I Buy This Book?

Not just because of the low price, I would recommend it because of the style in which the book is represented. There are very few books in science that can be understood by people who don’t belong to a science background, and Theory of Everything is one of them. The writing is simple, and Dr. Hawking’s clever propositions and his subtle doubts about the creator’s existence make it a very enjoyable experience. The book is small and easy to read, you can finish it in just three days.

In the end, I can only say that it’s an interesting read for anyone involved in science. There can be other opinions regarding the recommendation of this book. For example, some mathematicians may not like the style of the explanation without using mathematics. But, if we consider it entirely, then it fills all the gaps from its quality content. From this book, Hawking not only discussed his ideas and theories of science but also tried to inspire the young students to work on the unified theory of science.

 

One thought on “Book Review – The Theory of Everything – Stephen Hawking”

  1. Wonderful writing. I have read this book long back. Dr. Hawking gives a clear recount on his findings of black holes. The book is a must buy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.