Review of “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking

Title: A Brief History of Time
Author: Stephen Hawking
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 5 hours 46 minutes
Published: 2012, Phoenix Books (originally published 1988)
My Grade: 3.5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Stephen Hawking is one of the world’s leading cosmologists and is widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein. Although he has been widely published within his specialized field, A Brief History of Time is the first work he has written for the non-mathematical layman. In it he explores the outer reaches of our knowledge of astrophysics and the nature of time and the universe. The result is a revelation: a book that not only serves as an introduction to today’s most important theories on the cosmos but affords a unique opportunity to experience one of the most imaginative and influential thinkers of our age.

Confined to a wheelchair for the last twenty years by a motor-neurone disease, Professor Hawking is best known for his work on black holes. But here he turns his mind to the biggest question of all: the search for a unified theory that combines general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Always in the clearest, most accessible terms, Stephen Hawking reviews the great theories of the cosmos. From Galileo and Newton to Einstein and Poincaré, and then moves on into deepest space for the greatest intellectual adventure of all. Could time run backwards? Will a “no boundary” universe replace the big bang theory? What happens in a universe with eleven dimensions? These are just some of the questions considered with devastating lucidity and brilliance in A Brief History of Time, a work that is bound to become a classic of its kind.

 

MY REVIEW

I feel that my grade for this book is not fair. But the truth is that I did not connect with the narrator (and no, it’s not THE Michael Jackson). I have never zoned out so easily during an audiobook before. It might be because of the narrator or because I’ve had so much else to think about the past week. In either case, I will reread this at one point. I feel that this book has so much more to give me than what I got.

It’s been more than 30 years since it was originally published and there has happened a lot since then. But nothing is outdated and it still feels very relevant.

I really like that Hawking involves god in all of this. I’m not a believer myself, but I do like that he as a scientist at least tries to see where such a person possibly could fit in our cosmos.

I have now listened to his first and last scientific book and both are without any formulas or mathematics in it which is great! The universe is complicated as it is. And many ideas and theories are far beyond my reach of understanding. But at least now I’m aware of some theories that I can read more about now.

I believe that the grade should be at least one more than 3.5. But my gut tells me 3.5 right now and I always go with it.

Review of “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan

Title: Cosmos – A Personal Voyage
Author: Carl Sagan
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 14 hours 31 minutes
Published: 2017, Brilliance Audio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Cosmos has 13 heavily illustrated chapters, corresponding to the 13 episodes of the Cosmos television series. In the book, Sagan explores 15 billion years of cosmic evolution and the development of science and civilization. Cosmos traces the origins of knowledge and the scientific method, mixing science and philosophy, and speculates to the future of science. The book also discusses the underlying premises of science by providing biographical anecdotes about many prominent scientists throughout history, placing their contributions into the broader context of the development of modern science.

The book covers a broad range of topics, comprising Sagan’s reflections on anthropological, cosmological, biological, historical, and astronomical matters from antiquity to contemporary times. Sagan reiterates his position on extraterrestrial life—that the magnitude of the universe permits the existence of thousands of alien civilizations, but no credible evidence exists to demonstrate that such life has ever visited earth.

 

MY REVIEW

Sometimes I regret listening to books on astrophysics because that means I miss out on all the pictures. And I do feel that I’m not always following so I’m sure I missed a lot of good points made in this book.

First published in 1980, this book still feels very up-to-date, 40 years later. It is funny listening to Sagan talking about the US and USSR though, haha! But when it comes to the cosmos, not much changes except new discoveries. The ancient history is the same and always will be the same.

I haven’t seen the TV show, but I will now that I’ve finished the book. I think a lot of things will make more sense and it will make me remember hearing things that I probably unconsciously soaked in.

What surprised me a bit was that this was not a book strictly about planets, galaxies, and astrophysics. There was so much history in it, about communication, war, human nature. History that we need to understand in order to move forward. How will we be able to understand a possible message from an alien civilization? Who will speak for Earth when that happens? Us humans who have mass destruction weapon and kill each other for nothing?

Sagan stir up many questions. Much like Stephen Hawking does in his books. Both authors almost feel philosophical sometimes. Maybe they are? In the ancient times, the scholars were everything apparently.

After reading this, I am starting to feel the lust to listen to history books. I’m certain I would enjoy them as much!

It was a rather long book, but interesting and it makes me want to know more. I love that all of these authors that I’ve listened to lately have spurred my scientific interest again. It’s been dormant for many years. No more. Cosmos gets a strong four.

Review of “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” by Stephen Hawking

Title: Korta svar på stora frågor (Brief Answers to the Big Questions)
Author: Stephen Hawking
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 6 hours 31 minutes
Published: 2019, Mondial Förlag
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Stephen Hawking was recognized as one of the greatest minds of our time and a figure of inspiration after defying his ALS diagnosis at age twenty-one. He is known for both his breakthroughs in theoretical physics as well as his ability to make complex concepts accessible for all, and was beloved for his mischievous sense of humor. At the time of his death, Hawking was working on a final project: a book compiling his answers to the “big” questions that he was so often posed–questions that ranged beyond his academic field.

Within these pages, he provides his personal views on our biggest challenges as a human race, and where we, as a planet, are heading next. Each section will be introduced by a leading thinker offering his or her own insight into Professor Hawking’s contribution to our understanding.

 

MY REVIEW

  • Is there a God?
  • How did it all begin?
  • What is inside a black hole?
  • Can we predict the future?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • Will we survive on Earth?
  • Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
  • Should we colonize space?
  • Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
  • How do we shape the future?

Ten questions. Ten big questions that Hawking answers really well. Many things are still theories, but I wouldn’t be surprised if those theories are to be proved in the somewhat near future. He talks about our biggest challenges, for example an asteroid collision to which we have no defense, but also about the potential annihilation through nuclear war and how AI might affect our future in many different ways. He also writes about some parts of his life. And the foreword by Eddie Redmayne (he played young Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, the biography about him) was very touching.

I’ve never read anything by Hawkings before and I’m surprised I haven’t. I guess I’ve always thought of him as a bit intimidating as he was one of the world’s smartest people. Maybe I was thinking that I wouldn’t understand anything at all. But I was wrong. Brief Answers to the Big Questions was a very easy read, or more like a very easy listen. He used words that every day people like myself could easily understand, he gave the whole picture on so many important and interesting things and I felt that I learned a lot. It might have been easier for me to understand since I listened to it in Swedish, but I honestly doubt it.

He’s funny in his writing and I could feel his positivity through his words. Optimist through and through and I’m not sure I agree with him on all his beliefs for the future. But I sure hope he is right in believing in everything good that potentially could happen.

It’s sad to think that he is no longer with us. But I’m so glad that he outlived his doctor’s predictions of only having a few years left when he was diagnosed at the age of 21. It’s incredible that he lived to be 76!

I’ve read a few books on astrophysics now. And this was the best of them. It contained more than just science. I definitely recommend everyone to read it, we all need know more things! Five out of five, easily.

Review of “Welcome to the Universe” by deGrasse Tyson, Gott, Strauss

Title: Welcome to the Universe
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson, J. Richard Gott, Michael A. Strauss
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 17 hours 53 minutes
Published: 2017, Audible Studios
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Welcome to the Universe is a personal guided tour of the cosmos by three of today’s leading astrophysicists. Inspired by the enormously popular introductory astronomy course that Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael A. Strauss, and J. Richard Gott taught together at Princeton, this book covers it all–from planets, stars, and galaxies to black holes, wormholes, and time travel.

Describing the latest discoveries in astrophysics, the informative and entertaining narrative propels you from our home solar system to the outermost frontiers of space. How do stars live and die? Why did Pluto lose its planetary status? What are the prospects of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? How did the universe begin? Why is it expanding and why is its expansion accelerating? Is our universe alone or part of an infinite multiverse? Answering these and many other questions, the authors open your eyes to the wonders of the cosmos, sharing their knowledge of how the universe works.

Breathtaking in scope and stunningly illustrated throughout, Welcome to the Universe is for those who hunger for insights into our evolving universe that only world-class astrophysicists can provide.

 

MY REVIEW

I loved this book. It was long, it was thorough, it was fascinating. And it made me feel small. And maybe a little dumb? I have always found physics interesting and actually enjoyed it in high school and I really wish that this book had been released back then. I think it would have been an awesome complement to the literature we had in school. An entertaining complement. I probably would have understood more had I read it back then compared to now. As with all non-fiction books I “read” now, this was listened to as well. Which definitely made it more complicated to follow. I couldn’t see the formulas, and hearing them in English was new to my Swedish ears (as we only used Swedish in high school). The language of physics is in Swedish for me still unfortunately. That’s why I think for me, it would have been better to physically read it, not listen to it. What also sucked was that this book had illustrations in it. There was an accompanying PDF-filen with the figures, but it was impossible to time it when they referred to a picture since the file was not following where I was in the audiobook.

Oh well, even if it was the wrong medium to take this book on, I still enjoyed it very much and it has only given me a bigger appetite when it comes to astrophysics. And there are so many books on the subject out there!

This book was written after the three of them co-taught an introductory class at Princeton for non-science majors. It was supposed to introduce everyone to science and astrophysics and everything. I assume that this book is a very compromised version of that class, but it was fast-paced and sometimes hard to follow. Still, it was entertaining, I got the bigger message even if I didn’t see the formulas in front of me and could understand where they came from, and it was interesting and left me with a bigger understanding of the universe. I think this is a book that I would want to see in my bookshelf within a not too distant future.

Even if I sometimes zoomed out and didn’t quite understand everything, it was a very well-written book that explained so many things. It even brought up time travel. I’ll definitely read that chapter again when I’m writing my sci-fi book. It gets an easy five. If space is even slightly interesting to you, please read it.

Review of “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Title: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 3 hours 41 minutes
Published: 2017, Blackstone Audio, Inc
My Grade: 5 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? There’s no better guide through these mind-expanding questions than acclaimed astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson.

But today, few of us have time to contemplate the cosmos. So Tyson brings the universe down to Earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.

 

MY REVIEW

Listening to an audiobook was definitely a new experience for me as I’ve always thought that reading a real book would do more for me. But honestly, I gave up real paper books a long time ago when I discovered the wonders of an ereader. But on an ereader, you are still reading, even if it is on an e-ink screen. Listening to a book is something completely different.

After listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson talk for almost 4 hours about astrophysics 101, I’ve decided to listen more.

First of all, I’m a science nerd. Or rather, I want to know more, but don’t feel that I have the time. This was the perfect book to get that dry sponge inside me to activate and is now eager to learn more. It was a fairly short book, but with lots of information. The right amount of information to get my attention and want to learn more.

It was a very entertaining book, he used several terms that at least I, associated with science fiction worlds. He described everything with images that easily came up in my  head, making it easier to relate to.

I highly recommend anyone who have the slightest interest in space to pick this one up. Either as a physical book or the audiobook read by Neil himself. He did a fantastic job of reading it!

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry was a book directed at me and I loved it! Five out of five is my grade.