Thursday, July 21

Book: A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking Click for more info

I first read this book way back in 2002 - I was travelling alone back from Pakistan and picked it up at Karachi airport. I don't usually buy books, but since I was fresh out of university I was still a maths and physics head; Hawking was as much a role model and hero for me as any Hollywood (or Bollywood) actor was for my peers. A decade later and I'm slightly less geeky, so after a friend asked to borrow my copy I took it as an opportunity to re-read it and see if I took to the book as much as I did before.

As it says on the tin, A Brief History of Time is a small book. That's not to say it doesn't cover its subject matter in appropriate depth - any more detail would require much more of a technical background from the readership it was aimed at - and it's a credit to Hawking that he manages to convey some pretty difficult ideas to his audience. Or does he? Perhaps it's because I'm older and more cynical, or perhaps I've just lost my ability to think, but some of it didn't make complete sense.

Of course the book hasn't changed; only I have, and I don't remember having these difficulties during my first read - perhaps I just had more time and inclination to think about them? Still, you don't need to comprehend the book too much to enjoy it - I still enjoyed reading about the scope of the universe and time and the like even after taking what Hawking says for granted (something easily done if you're not a physicist).

The book is quite contemporary for one written such a long time ago - it was first published in 1988 which makes it an astonishing 23 years old (and quite amusingly older than the friend I'm planning on giving it to). But as well as covering the well established concepts like Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, it does also eventually touch on more exotic stuff like String Theory. Whether this was added to my "later" edition I'm not sure, and it's possible that later editions still have more up to date discussion.

But still, for the layman (which, alas, after reading this book I have finally accepted that I am), A Brief History of Time is a great introduction to a field of science that can sometimes be as scary as it is fascinating, so provided you already hold an interest in the topic I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book.

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