Second book reviewed as part of the 130 Challenge
There is a certain joy in reading the account of something from someone who was intricately involved with it. Science is not something that was very popular a few years back. It has gained greater following thanks to the internet, but Physics (and more so mathematics) is still an esoteric enigma that still confounds many a netizen. Beyond a basic grasp of ideas of physics we usually don’t know much about the universe. Enter, Stephen Hawking.
With his disarming charm and with utmost lucidity, Hawking goes on to explore some of the more difficult questions about the universe, namely it’s origin and nature. This is a mainstream book and as Hawking promises in the beginning, he hasn’t used any equation to do so (except e=mc^2), relying instead on beautifully crafted nuggets of information (with diagrams where necessary) that link seamlessly with each other.
The book is filled with wonderful anecdotes and gives a view of the history of science from the eyes of a scientist. Someone who has made substantial contributions to it (and yet, is as humble as they come). Hawking begins the explanation of each theory or concept from the ground up and as such one doesn’t need to know much science to follow his book. It is like a big story, only that is our own story – the story of humankind. You can just sit back, relax and read through it, marveling at the way certain people in history have paved the way for the rest of us to move forward. Now, Hawking doesn’t talk about these people in a heroic way. But what he says is so honest and pleasant and so amazing, that it becomes grand.
He cracks a few jokes here and there, most of them are self-deprecatory. But none of them ridicule anyone, or any belief or idea. He writes like a true gentleman. Even the conclusion that he makes towards the end, is not so much to make a point, as to educate people about the facts.
Another thing that I liked about the book is the short biographies (or notes) about Einstein, Galileo and Newton. These are very honest and frank observations about these people, that make them seem so much more human than scientific superstars!
This book is a very successful book and doesn’t really need my stamp of approval. Nathan Myhrvold of Microsoft once remarked that Hawking has sold more books on physics than Madonna has on sex! I am not surprised, at all. A book like this definitely deserves to be read by everyone.