After starting the year with Isaac Asimov’s Autobiography, I read a science book – A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking next to keep up with my goal to read books from different genre this year.
I tried to read this book a couple of years ago, but stopped in between and didn’t complete. I forgot the real reason why I stopped and so I took it up again this time and read it from the beginning.
Compared to my last book, this was not a page turner, but I was learning lot of new things which motivated me to finish the book. It took me about a week to complete this book.
Anyways, as I promised at the beginning of the year, I will try to write reviews for most of the books that I read and here is my review of the second book that I read this year – A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
“A Brief History of Time” is Stephen Hawking’s effort to make science reachable for nonspecialist readers and give an overview of the latest developments and theories in Physics and Cosmology like big bang, black holes, warm holes, light cones, singularities, entropy and the concept of time direction to an average reader who may not have much background in science.
Apart from a little hiccups here and there, I think the author did a really good job to make these concepts more understandable for an average nonspecialist reader. Personally, I learned a couple of new concepts from this book.
Concepts that I learned from this book
The main take away for me from this book was the concept of entropy and how the universe always moves from a high order state to a lower order state. Ironically this concepts was also explored by Isaac Asimov in his famous (and his own favorite) short story “The Last Question”. Who said you can’t learn science from good science fiction 😉
The other major concept that I learned from this book is that time has a clear direction. The author calls this as “direction of time arrow”. This one concept has major implication on lot of things including time travel.
Apart from this I also learned the following concepts.
- Double-slit experiment – The experiment to prove the particle and wave dual nature of light.
- Concept of event horizon in black holes – the boundary surrounding a black hole inside which light can’t escape.
- W0rm holes – Hypothetical shortcut through spacetime.
- Spacetime curvature – Mathematical model that combines space and time.
- Super string theory – One of the latest attempt to explain all particles and fundamental forces using a single theory.
- Quantum mechanics and its relationship with gravity.
- Human being’s struggle to come up with grand unified theory.
- Why time travel may not be possible.
Things that didn’t work out for the book
I am convinced the author is very intelligent and understands the concepts described in this book really well (in fact he created/discovered most of these concepts), but there are times when the explanation of certain concepts are not clear enough and I am sure most readers would not have understood them. I guess this is because the author has too much knowledge about these and assumes some amount of familiarity of the subject from the readers. Explanation of some of the advanced concepts like Super string theory are affected by this assumption and makes it very difficult to understand them.
To be fair to the author, these concepts are fairly complex and very advanced. They also dependent on lot of other concepts and requires the reader to have familiarity with all the dependent concepts to understand them.
Apart from these few hiccups, most of the other things in the book are explained in simple language and should be understandable for an average but interested reader.
My rating for this book is 4 out of 5.
The only reason that I didn’t give 5 stars was because of the hiccups that I mentioned above. Apart from those it is a very good book to read.
My next book
One of my resolutions for this year is to read books from different genre. Now that I have read an Autobiography and a science book, I am going to read a couple of books in Tamil (my native language) together with some technical books as well for variety. I haven’t done any serious reading in Tamil for over a decade and I am going to start with a very simple book. In fact it’s a children story book containing stories that are loosely based on Birpal, the clever and witty adviser in the court of Akbar.
After that I am going to read Ponniyin Selvan, a 5 volume, 2400 page, 20th century historical novel written by Krishnamurthy popularly known as Kalki that talks about Chola Dynasty during the 10th and 11th century. Should be an interesting and long read I guess 🙂