Wednesday 11 January 2012

Book Review: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking

Hmm. I have to say I was disappointed. If I had to sum up the book in one sentence it would be "I think M-Theory is our best shot at a GUT."

It's not that the book was not well written - it is.
Nor that it covers some details regarding the Strong Anthropic Principle that are glossed over elsewhere.
Nor that it fleshes out the mechanisms regarding Feynman diagrams and the Sum over Histories calculations.
Nor that is is sprinkled with Hawkings humorous quips and comments.
It's just that...

I expected not so much a revelation but a new way to view the relationship between the microscopic and macroscopic worlds.
And I didn't get it.
Worse, it seems that 99% of the book has been written about before.
And the appellation "New answers to the ultimate questions of life" seems almost completely incorrect.
Greenes "The Fabric of the Cosmos" came out in 2004 and apart from some minor differences says much of the same things.
And "Cycles of Time" (2010) by Penrose provides a detailed 'new' way of viewing the 2nd law and how it relates to the beginning of the universe (if 'beginning' is the right word) that isn't even mentioned by Hawking.
If this book had come out 10 or even 5 years ago it might have been considered "...mind-blowing stuff.." as the Sunday Times describes it.
But it didn't. It came out this year.
I accept that there must have been considerable difficulties relating to transcribing Hawkings thoughts and speech to paper, so it would have taken a long time to create.
But still...

Unrelated to the content I must add that for the copy of the paperback I purchased the choice of font and paper was unfortunate. Galliard and glossy paper make it physically difficult to read when not in natural light as the reflection gets irritating fast. I did love the comics and the artwork as they provided an insight to the beauty and difficulty of analysing the universe.

All in all, I'd have to say "don't bother" and would recommend Penrose and Greene as better choices.

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