The Grand Design – Book Review

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,  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 🙂

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