Kristopher Swinson's Reviews > Black Holes and Baby Universes

Black Holes and Baby Universes by Stephen Hawking
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Feb 07, 10

Read on February 07, 2010

I picked this up as a diversion and hopeful cure for a case of insomnia, in which it was only moderately successful. Hawking seems modest enough, and certainly has a vibrant sense of humor. Indeed, his writing style is rather accessible--which made me all the more frustrated when, due to the repetitive nature from collecting these essays, I realized I still only understand quantum physics to a certain extent, even on the third reading. While he downplays the necessity of mathematical erudition (10, 35, etc.), supposedly not his actual strong suit, I obviously don't believe it's sufficient to analyze good metaphors--or parables--without sound comprehension of what lies in back of them. At least, I'm hoping that's why I can't always follow.

Thankfully, some things I can follow, i.e., "If the solar system were composed of an equal mixture of particles and antiparticles, they would all annihilate each other and leave just radiation" (60). (Yeah, duh.) Still, I have to wonder whether it's gotten to his (and the entire scientific community's) head, particularly as one lecture pondered whether they could stumble upon the coveted unified theory within the next 20 years. He is somewhat ambivalent about God, and it's nerve-wracking to hear his honest belief that we are close to knowing the mind of God (37), thereby becoming "Masters of the Universe" (ix; see 5, 47). He's not usually too antagonistic in pointing out that science cannot answer why the universe was created (19, 91, 99, 172-173), and almost giving God the throne, even if pretending to largely know how He operates (98, 128, 137).

If only he'd concede how much is sheer theory, as he often hints when stating that science is progressing to the point where earth's resources can't construct a sufficient device to test its postulates. In one place, he nearly states that constructs hard for him to imagine are not worth incorporation into theory (66); he enjoyed pointing out where Einstein overlooked something of cosmological importance. Why can't he also ever be mistaken? Orson Pratt stated in 1878, "Light, how slow! . . . Now, the Lord has powers beyond those with which we are acquainted" (Orson Pratt, JD, 19:294; see 21:258). At first, many could agree with speed greater than light. Then the theory of relativity prohibited such a notion. Now quantum mechanics allow the possibility again, something which Hawking relied upon in explaining escape velocity at the event horizon of black holes.

He sets up another scenario, except what he calls "dark matter," I call "pure and refined" matter, even "light matter" or "the light of Christ":

We can measure the speeds at which individual galaxies are moving in these clusters. We find they are so high that the clusters would fly apart unless they were held together by gravitational attraction. The mass required is considerably greater than the masses of all the galaxies. . . . It follows, therefore, that there must be extra dark matter present in clusters of galaxies outside the galaxies that we see. . . .

What could the extra dark matter be that must be there if the theory of inflation is correct? It seems that it is probably different from normal matter, the kind that makes up stars and planets. (148, 151-152)

There's excitement in, and allowance for, inquiry about the universe, but I get distrustful in men who jettison God or seem to think they know more than they do at this stage in the game. Edison freely admitted, "We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything."

As for the phenomena above, while I can see why much in historical Christianity leads to Hawking's misrepresentation of their approach to science (86), I still contend that man cannot by searching find out God, that one learns more by gazing into heaven (as permitted by God's parting the veil, not just a glance at the night sky, necessarily) for five minutes than reading all the books ever written on the subject, and that in many respects the revelations really do still offer the most beautiful answers. (For instance, with respect to gravitational governance unaccounted for by current equations, I refer you to Abraham Facsimile 2, Figures 1 through 5, which overall is curiously circular, like the one eternal round which Hawking approaches in his method for real/imaginary time bending back into itself.)

I take additional comfort in James E. Talmage's rational, albeit religious, explanation (LEJ, 21:440): "Astronomers admit that there may be many invisible worlds in space, of structure too fine and of matter too tenuous to be observed by our dull vision. These may be celestialized orbs, tenanted by celestial beings, perceptible only to celestialized senses."

I'm sorry about my impatient rant, mainly irrelevant to reviewing the book at hand. This is cutting edge and nearly as entertaining as possible for the subject matter, but I don't swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

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