A book by the phenomonal Stephen Hawking. This book gives an introduction to the complex workings of the universe in words that the layman can understand. A gargantuan step in educating people about theoretical physics.
The book is divided into the following sections:

  1. Our Picture of the Universe
  2. Space and Time
  3. The Expanding Universe
  4. The Uncertainty Principle
  5. Elementary Particles and the Forces of Nature
  6. Black Holes
  7. Black Holes Ain't So Black
  8. The Origin and Fate of the Universe
  9. The Arrow of Time
  10. Conclusion

The book's persisting copyright is the only obstacle preventing me from noding it in its entirety. It comes highly recommended.

I second that recommendation!

In another context I wrote a short summary of one of my favourite chapters, regarding the size of the universe. I feel it illustrates fairly well how Hawking makes the complex scientific theories readable - and enjoyable - to the general public;

The universe might very well be of finite size and mass, but, as Stephen Hawking explained in A Brief History of Time (an excellent book, I might add), that doesn't mean it has boundaries, i.e. a beginning and an end.

Hawking took away one dimension, and compared our universe with a balloon, and an ant living on it. While the ant can never reach the edge of the universe (there are none), it would be possible for the ant to go all the way around, ending up where it started.

However! If the balloon was growing at a certain speed, the ant would never be able to complete the trip around.

Therefore, if the expansion rate of the universe is sufficiently large, it would require faster than light travel to reach all the way around, which complicates things alot. (The Theory of Relativity prohibits it, but some "loopholes" have been discovered, e.g. the Alcubierre Warp Drive.)

So, for us, the inhabitants of this universe, it appears to be infinite.

As a side note: The balloon analogy is very useful for explaining wormholes and warp drives too; Imagine squeezing the balloon between two fingers until the opposite sides meet. Then the distance between the two points is zero. The trick is to find a way to bend the universe to fit our needs.

Released in 1992, A Brief History of Time is an award winning motion picture documentary about British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, directed by Errol Morris. Stephen Hawking’s theories changed the modern perception of the creation of the universe.

This film features interviews with Stephan Hawking, his family, and other physicists as well as various analogue charts and diagrams to try explain some of he complex theories detailed in Hawking’s best-selling book, also titled A Brief History of Time, that was released in 1988. (Although even with the charts and interviews it’s all still so complicated you better take some Tylenol before trying to understand all these theories).

The film features Stephen Hawking, Jane Hawking, Isobel Hawking, Janet Humphrey, Basil King, Derek Pawney, Norman Dix, Robert Berman, Gordon Berry, Roger Penrose, Dennis Sciama, John Wheeler, Brandon Carter, John Taylor, P. Thorne, Don Page, Christopher Isham, Bryan Whitt, Raymond LaFlamme and Kip Thomas.

This movie won two Sundance Film Festival awards in 1992. It won the Filmmakers Trophy for Documentary and the Grand Jury Prize for documentary.


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