I just read "A Brief History of Time"

By Steven Hawking. I figured since it was marketed toward laypeople, I might understand it. The first part of it lives up to the hype. I have a decent idea of what a scientific model is, the relationship between space and time, why time slows down in areas of great gravity, what a black hole is and how it works, and then…nothing. The last two chapters were complete fucking gibberish. Strings and branes and thermodynamics and time arrows and fucking gibberish. I think the problem is that the stuff in the early part of the book can be considered in non-mathematical terms. I understand string theory is only useful as a mathematical description and not an actual picture of reality, so trying to use some way of reasoning other than mathematics to understand string theory is just going to leave you with a headache. I was so excited about how much I “got it” through the first 3/4 of the book that the last two chapters reminding me I still don’t know anything at all actually hurt my pride a little.

Anyway, I thought it was a great read, and overall I’m glad I picked it up. If you’re interested in how the universe works, you should give it a shot if you haven’t already. It’s something like 30 years old at this point, but there have been some revisions to help keep it from being overly dated. I recognized some stuff that I’m pretty sure has been proven false since the edition I read (like the claim that the universe expands more slowly the further it goes forward in time. I think the opposite is true, and the universe seems like it will expand at an ever-increasing rate). I think the first chapters are fantastic for people like me who don’t know crap about crap, so if that’s you, give it a try!

Let’s not exaggerate. It’s 21 years old.

Yeah the parts that were easy to follow were fantastic, but it did really start to get a bit dense in parts as it went on (too much so compared to the pace of other parts of the book).

Recently my wife wanted to give it a read, but my copy was back in australia, so we picked up a copy of the updated version ‘A Briefer History of Time’ - which as far as I can tell looks like it addresses this problem pretty well. Had a quick flick through it, and it seems like it’s a lot more accessible overall - ditched some heavy stuff and expanded or updated other bits (with some pics & diagrams to boot)

I got confused in the discussion of “imaginary time.” He seemed to be saying that this wasn’t necessarily a description of an actual physical aspect of the universe, but if you assume it exists, it makes the numbers work out in the equations that are meant to describe the actual universe. I couldn’t tell where the thought experiment ended and reality began.