Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History Of Time, became an international best-seller – although it is thought many who bought the book never quite finished it because of the complexity of some of the concepts contained within it.
Nevertheless, Professor Hawking has achieved a popular status enjoyed by few scientists, even making guest appearances on The Simpsons cartoon show and Star Trek.
To mark his own brief history, a celebratory symposium is to be held in Cambridge on Friday. It will be addressed by Professor Hawking himself, his collaborator Sir Roger Penrose, and the Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees.
Disappearing black holes
“Not only is Stephen a first-class scientist of global renown who can be guaranteed to stimulate debate amongst his peers, but he is also a world ambassador for science,” says Professor Ian Halliday, CEO of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PParc), the body that funds most of the UK’s physics and astronomy effort.
“Stephen has brought the excitement of fundamental physics to a truly mass audience, raising the awareness and general knowledge of cosmology and physics to an unprecedented level, undoubtedly enthusing the scientists of the future,”
You are driving along a road and you strike a cat that rather stupidly darted into your path. The cat is dead and depending on your natural disposition, your life continues mostly unaffected. After reading Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, you might interpret the situation quite differently. What was once a mundane event can be analyzed in two new ways: on a large scale and on a small scale. In his book, Dr Hawking lays out our place in this universe on a level that almost anyone can understand and appreciate. In true scientific fashion he covers fundamental concepts of science, voyaging through the past, present, and future understanding of the universe we live in. The most refreshing aspects of the book are the simplicity, the use of everyday examples, and the omission of detailed mathematical formulas. In fact, the only formula in the entire book is the famous E = MC2 which is explained in detail. Stated simply, the book gives the reader new perspectives to analyze our everyday existence. Putting the cat’s personal feelings, or lack thereof, aside, Dr Hawking shows you what it all means.
The true sense of how minuscule we are, whether that be an individual or an entire race, is nearly incomprehensible. Dr Hawking explains the theory of the Big Bang which proposes that all matter was once compacted into a small area. At some point, it exploded and the universe as we know it was created and time was started. While this may sound like cheap science fiction, Dr Hawking provides reasonable logic and evidence that this event actually occurred. The numbers involved in this event is staggering. The amount of matter, time, energy transfer, and speed of expansion contains far too many zeros than can be truly grasped. With this in mind, one gets a sense of the sheer immensity of the universe and how minute a tiny person in a tiny race on a tiny planet really fits into the galactic picture. On this point, Dr Hawking shows us the humility of our place. In the big picture, the killing of a cat will not stop the Universe’s news presses.
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