Matty Smith's Reviews > The Illustrated A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nutshell

The Illustrated A Brief History of Time/The Universe in a Nut... by Stephen Hawking
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Jun 06, 2011

really liked it
Read from June 06 to August 24, 2011

There's a reason I never took physics...

And that all of my science credits for my BA consist of studying the biographies of Copernicus, Galileo, and Einstein.

This stuff is COMPLICATED, y'alls.

I read Brief History of Time in high school as an assignment for Non-western Civilization from one of the best teachers I ever had. Still not sure how the assignment tied in with the class but I suppose that's neither here nor there. It was something that always stuck with me and when I saw the opportunity to buy an illustrated version coupled with a second book by Hawking for super cheap at my Borders' closing sale, I snatched it up.

In both books, Dr. Hawking explains amazingly complex concepts in an easily comprehensible (if not necessarily understandable) way which seems to break things down as simply as possible. On it's own, I would give "Brief History" 5 Stars. The book starts with a fairly clear thesis and moves step by step describing all the points it intended to hit. And the illustrations are a nice bonus. It should be noted that this text was updated from the original version published in the late 80's. I'm not sure if it differs any from the version I read in the late 90's but there definitely seemed to be a few concepts I don't recall from the first time around. But over all, Brief History is pretty understandable, and eye opening once you can wrap your mind around the concepts involved.

Perhaps part of the problem comparing the two books is that relativity as a theory is over 100 years old. It seems to be something that most averagely (not a word I know) educated people have a basic grasp up, so the elaborations in Brief History are easier to follow. Then the book gets into string theory. Which I seem to recall understanding once upon a time. Kinda. And then the second book elaborates on that, and moves from there to "branes" and ten dimensional space and imaginary time and a whole lot of much more modern theory is thrown at you all at once. Plus, Hawking acknowledges in the prologue to "Universe in a Nutshell" that he conceived that book as one that has, more or less, stand alone chapters which refer to each other but don't build a story flow as it were. There's a whole lot going on in that book and a lot of it, even if I read it over a few times, flew right over my head. Though a part of me feels I could really grasp everything it discusses if I push myself to struggle through a reread.

And maybe in about 5-10 years I'll feel up to it. I'm keeping the book so it'll always be on the shelf. And I'll willingly admit, perhaps it's not fair to not give this book a full 5 star rating based on my own ignorance and inability to understand what seems like the easiest explanation of very complicated ideas. But as I said before...this stuff is COM-PLI-CATED!
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