Alex's Reviews > The Grand Design

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking
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Dec 15, 10

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bookshelves: science, 2010
Read in December, 2010

Hawking is a terrific self-promoter, and he managed to grab a lot of headlines for this book by claiming he'd killed God or whatever, but the truth is there's very little in this book that Brian Greene didn't cover - and cover better - ten years ago. In fact, a lot of this is stuff Hawking himself has covered in A Brief History of Time.

In the last chapter he brings up Conway and Turing and things get significantly more interesting, but it's too late by that time, since Hawking apparently feels he can't publish a book of more than 200 pages. I felt like we were at the start of something interesting there; I would've liked to hear more about it.

In general, this confirms that I'm not a big fan of Hawking. He bills himself as "science explained for the masses," but he doesn't actually explain things all that well - or, at least, there are folks who can explain it better. And in trying to cover so much in his books, he ends up covering nothing well enough.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Cindy Yup. I wonder if Grand Design is best for people who don't have time to read the Greene or who are afraid of the Greene?


Alex But Greene does a better job at explaining the concepts.

The one thing Hawking has going for him is that his is brand new and touches on a very few new developments. M-theory's been slightly fleshed out in the past ten years, and it's (so I gather) gained a little credibility - at least from "That's interesting but show me a shred of evidence" to "Okay, I haven't come up with any better ideas." Is that your impression?


Cindy Yeah, I'd say so. The M-theory stuff still wasn't very comprehensible in The Grand Design, though.

Does Greene talk about M-theory or string theory?


message 4: by Alex (last edited Dec 15, 2010 12:20PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex The book's mainly about string theory, but he talks about M-theory in a fair amount of depth over the last few chapters. It's really just an evolution of string theory anyway, so you have to go through strings to get to M.

I couldn't tell you how much it's changed since then, since I had no idea what he was banging on about back then either. This stuff is really impossible to describe in lay terms.


Cindy From what I can tell around work, it's pretty damn hard to understand even for professional scientists.

Sounds like I need to read Greene then! I feel bad that I haven't read any recent lay books, and then people ask me for recommendations.

So, did you graffiti up the book?


Alex Feynman himself says no one even gets quantum mechanics, including him.

I did mark it all up, although my contributions weren't as erudite as yours. I failed to spill wine on it though; I may have to actually stage a spill just to leave my mark.


Cindy Did Feynman really say that? That's rich, coming from the guy who won the Nobel for QED. He's totally right, though.


Cindy Hahaha. Totally Feynman. I have no clue how I've never heard that before!

Did I ever tell you about the random portrait of Feynman that's on a building in Pasadena? It's a cool bit of artwork, but it's on the side of a somewhat dumpy discount retailer. Which makes me laugh every time.


message 10: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather I have the Greene book and am planning on reading it for the challenge. I'm glad to know you recommend it, Alex!


message 11: by Alex (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alex Oh, absolutely. You won't understand any of this when you're done, but he certainly makes a good try.


message 12: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Oh, yeah, I don't really hope to understand it. All I know about physics at this point in my life I've learned from Sheldon Cooper. Ha! Cindy has graciously agreed to be my tutor, and I am pumped about that!


Cindy I wish we could invite Sheldon to Bookish, then he could rail on us for being "Insufficiently Intelligent People."


message 14: by Heather (new) - added it

Heather Well, we could just tell him that our me-maws died, and then he'd love us anyway ;-)


Cindy Haha! When we were visiting our nieces this past spring, we sang the Warm Kitty, Soft Kitty song to them to help break the ice. At first they were confused, then they thought it was hilarious.


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