Hawking’s grand design

Just some months back, there was a lot of hullabaloo about Stephen Hawking’s new book, where he stated : “Modern physics has now proved that God played no role in the creation of the universe.” Atheists and theists, everyone was commenting on this statement. Theists wrote a lot of posts (just on WordPress) refuting Hawking’s statement and saying that god was indeed instrumental in creating the Universe. I so badly wanted to read this book, when I heard about it in February. Finally I got hold of the book recently and finished it in just 2 days. The book was so interesting that I could not put it down. Even though I knew a lot about M-theory and String theory, it was still nice to hear all this from Stephen Hawking. I went gaga over his Brief history of Time when I read it during my school days. This book if not as good as his earlier bestseller,Β  is still a great book to read.

the_grand_design_cover

In Brief History of Time, he suggested there might be God’s hand in creating the Universe, but now with the new theories that have come up, he says it is possible to explain everything from quantum mechanics to large objects like planets and galaxies, using a set of theories.

The book starts with a mention of inventions/discoveries made by scientists in the past, starting with the Greek mathematicians to the modern day scientists. In this book, we find answers to these questions:

  1. What is the origin of the laws of nature?
  2. Are there any exceptions to the laws i.e miracles?
  3. Is there only one set of possible laws?

“Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”

: an excerpt from the book.

The book starts with an introduction to various laws like the Maxwell’s electromagnetism, Newton’s gravity and interference, Einstein’s general relativity and photoelectric effect, quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, Fenyman’s alternative histories and wave/particle duality of light. Then it explains the 4 forces in nature which need to be bound into a single law: Gravity, Electromagnetism, Strong nuclear force and Weak nuclear force. M-theory claims to unite all these forces into a single theory and using Fenyman’s sum over histories, the laws no more breakdown at the time of origin of the Universe, the way Einstein’s equations did.

I am sure anyone who has read something about string theory would know some of the stuff explained in the book, but the narration was still good. Only feature the book lacked in was that there was absolutely no mathematics and most of the theories were just “touched”, not explained in lot of detail. This is a good book if you are looking for an introduction to all the theories that have been proposed by scientists regarding birth of the Universe. But if you already know these theories and are looking for something more, then this is not the book for you.

I would call myself agnostic and hence I enjoyed reading the book a lot. This statement is something that I loved in the book –

“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

It feels great to see how much science has progressed, from the days when people thought Earth was the center of the universe and everything else went around it, or the days when people thought wolves ate sun during Solar Eclipse to the present day when we know that Earth is nothing more than a speck of dust in the entire Universe. And with the new theories in place, our universe is again one amongst the many many universes that exist πŸ™‚

I give this book 4/5 since it made a very interesting read. But if you are a devout theist, stay away from the book!

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47 thoughts on “Hawking’s grand design

  1. Awesome review. A Brief History of Time was very interesting and I hope this book would be too πŸ™‚ Need to get a copy now. I believe in God but I don’t see why this should be a reason to stop one from joining in the pursuit of science to understand the universe. I love Physics but was disappointed when I studied quantum mechanics and the indeterminism it espoused. I loved Newtonian mechanics too much. Apparently the world around us is very complex and resolving that complexity in just a few laws is what makes Physics interesting. Your post reminded me of the tough times I had understanding interference and diffraction πŸ™‚

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    • This book is not as good as Brief history of time but still it is great πŸ™‚ Do get hold of the book! Looks like they have finally overcome all those drawbacks in the older theories πŸ™‚

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  2. Its been ages since I read anything related to physics. The last 1 was ‘A beautiful mind’ – the famous biography of John Nash with brief discussions of a number of theories like the Game Theory. Hmm you got me curious again…I might grab a copy of this book soon !

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    • Then go ahead and buy the book.. it is a good read, you will like it, if you like science books.. Yeah I have read Surely you’re joking Mr.Fenyman.. one of my all-time favouriteeeee book.. it was so interesting πŸ™‚

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  3. I have read the brief history of time. It started well, but then went on to become very complicated (at least for me). But I liked the first few chapters. I guess I will give this a try. BTW, I am tagging you on the topic ‘My top three movies of all time’

    Destination Infinity

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    • I read Brief history of time when I was in school and my physics knowledge was pretty fresh back then, so dint have much trouble understanding the concepts.. not sure if I will understand everything if I read it again πŸ™‚ But this book doesnt have anything in detail and is pretty much in simple language, so I guess you should grab this book πŸ™‚

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  4. I m a devout theist but will see if I can read it. Your review has made it sound interesting. But I m not sure if I will like the book as I believe in one God for sure and one super power even being a science student :P.

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  5. πŸ™‚

    Of course looking at it from a Biological (or rather, Biochemical) point of view, Oparin had long ago demonstrated how life could have spontaneously originated.

    I have always maintained that everything can be explained plainly on the basis of Physics. πŸ˜€ But the ‘supernatural’ theories and beliefs that run around, including the present day religions, are more of psychological cushion to fall back on if things don’t turn out as expected. πŸ™‚

    Though almost every religion was created with very basic scientific laws. But us humans have twisted those scientific laws into beliefs based on delusions which is obviously beneficial to some particular groups of people in every religion.

    As far as God is concerned, I rather believe that Nature is God. πŸ™‚

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    • Did not know about Oparin’s theory.. should read about it then.. Even I believe in nature is god theory πŸ˜€ In those days, I guess elders wanted us to follow some good principles and to make sure people follow them, they brought fear for God into picture.. but these days those principles are gone and all that remains is concept of God.

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  6. Nice review.

    This is one topic for which I am always a sucker. I have always admired Stephen Hawking and his thoughts. wonder how his brain works inspite of his illness ! Truly, a genius. I am sure my bro will get this book soon; will borrow it from him.

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    • Thanks Vimmuuu.. Nice to know even you like reading such stuff.. and to meet another Stephen Hawking fan πŸ™‚ He really is a genius and I am so happy that he recovered from his serious illness last yr and was able to complete this book! Do read this book without fail..

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  7. you always write a good review Ak.. giving ample information.. nothing more.. nothing less πŸ™‚

    I am yet to read ‘The brief history of time’.. after reading it I will give this a try πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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  8. !!! g for geek post πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ the casual way in which u throw in ref of string theory and electro-watever laws!!!! wow..AK take a bow…physics and gils are 2 sides of a circle..physics inside me outside

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  9. I loved Brief History of Time when I read it many years ago even though the quantum physics was a little over my head.
    I’ve been reading bits and pieces about string theory and this book has been on my radar for a while. Looks like I’m going to have to put it on my wish-list now!

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  10. In “The Grand Design” Hawking says that we are somewhat like goldfish in a curved fishbowl. Our perceptions are limited and warped by the kind of lenses we see through, β€œthe interpretive structure of our human brains.” Albert Einstein rejected this subjective approach, common to much of quantum mechanics, but did admit that our view of reality is distorted.

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity has the surprising consequences that β€œthe same event, when viewed from inertial systems in motion with respect to each other, will seem to occur at different times, bodies will measure out at different lengths, and clocks will run at different speeds.” Light does travel in a curve, due to the gravity of matter, thereby distorting views from each perspective in this Universe. Similarly, mystics’ experience in divine oneness, which might be considered the same “eternal” event, viewed from various historical, cultural and personal perspectives, have occurred with different frequencies, degrees of realization and durations. This might help to explain the diversity in the expressions or reports of that spiritual awareness. What is seen is the same; it is the “seeing” which differs.

    In some sciences, all existence is described as matter or energy. In some of mysticism, only consciousness exists. Dark matter is 25%, and dark energy about 70%, of the critical density of this Universe. Divine essence, also not visible, emanates and sustains universal matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and cosmic consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). During suprarational consciousness, and beyond, mystics share in that essence to varying extents. [quoted from my e-book on comparative mysticism]

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      • Avada,

        I looked up the meaning of your name…from Harry Potter. That’s scary. You could be anywhere, but I assume India. I studied at Lucknow University on a Carnegie (1961-62) grant long before you were born. One of my mentors was Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (an amazing person).

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  11. Been ages since I read a book from this genre. Physics was still fresh in my mind when I read Brief History of Time. Lemme see if I can make up my mind to get this one πŸ˜‰

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    • Yeah true.. even I read BHT when I was in school so understood well.. this book just has intros, nothing much in detail so dont think physics knowledge is needed. It is in a layman’s language, looks like written with non-physics guys in mind.

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  12. Anybody interested in reading The Grand Design can download the e-book for free from my blog. No need to buy the book if you can read on computer πŸ˜€ I’ve also given a link to this review of yours AK on my blog. Hope you won’t mind πŸ™‚

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  13. You didn’t mention about Leonard Mladinow’s contribution for this book.
    They have made the book into a complete paradox, that no reader can understand the true sight of this book, unless they read it a few times. The laws and theories were described beautifully, how they relate to each other and their contribution to the new discoveries. The sequence of theories is based on hypothetical view, same like the “Fabric of Reality”, which starts from the theories with strong to weak evidences. His view about creation. This is where the paradox comes. From philosophy to science, he wonderfully uncovers the belief system in science based on faith, which is the core to it’s counterpart – theism. Same as the way that theism came, he tries to justifies that the creation itself is a belief.
    This book has the element to change the belief of ‘Thesists’ in their way, indirectly. But it’s only 0.1% of thesists can understand this, same as Newton tried 400 yrs before.

    BTW, when did u became agnostic??

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    • “This book has the element to change the belief of β€˜Thesists’ in their way, indirectly. ” very true! But not many theists might read this book, which is kinda sad.. I am not a theist for sure.. but I am not an atheist completely.. I am not sure what I believe in.. I mean sometimes I feel there was a creator, but I dont believe he watches movement of each and every person on this planet or changes destiny if you keep praying.. I feel we write our own destiny with our actions.. I am a confused soul for sure πŸ˜€

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    • One thing is that I did not like is that I did not learn anything new as such.. I knew all these theories already.. but there is still some uncertainty in them.. lets see if people can prove these!

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      • True.. This isn’t an ‘eye opener’. But there is nothing confusing here. Hawking just strengthens his aesthetic side in God/Science debate.. At last he became a ‘brand’ for making money, like J.K.Rowling.
        However, His strong argument was Science is a belief based, same as keeping faith in God.

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  14. Sounds interesting… will grab a copy. My viewpoint on God and Science is. No one knows what is truth. Universe is a puzzle till we experience Death coz that is exactly when we will know if God exists πŸ˜‰ As for science it is always evolving. Theories now could become history tomorrow.

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    • Yeah that’s so true.. but not sure if we will know even after our death. It is such a big mystery πŸ™‚ Theories keep coming up, one disproving the earlier one.. not sure even this time we hit the right one.. Not sure if M-theory is “the” theory πŸ™‚

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  15. I was watching the show Stephen Hawking’s Universe – Black Hole Time where he explained his theory of time and how we can travel back to time. But I wasn’t convinced my the concept as he explained.

    I have always been wondering what this guy sitting on a wheel chair, paralyzed, is doing with Science. He has attracted my attention for some years now and had been following some of his programs that are aired on either Disc or NatGeo.

    The belief is created by Man kind, super natural forces can often be interpreted as God.

    On aside, your blog’ theme doesnt let the show flakes come up good.. keep a dark theme for some time or change the BG image to a darker one would do so good. πŸ˜›

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    • I admire Stephen Hawking a lot! He has done some amazing work even though he is physically not so capable. Do read this book and have you read “Brief History of Time”? Read it if you want to know more about blackholes and space-time..
      I had a nice dark background with the previous theme and I loved it so much..But many people said it was not getting loaded properly on their browser.. so had to change the theme and for this theme, dark color doesnt suit 😦 Need to find a better theme..

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  16. Pingback: My brief history by Stephen Hawking | Bookish Muggle

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