A Brief History Of Time: And Other Essays

Paperback | September 1, 1998

byStephen Hawking

not yet rated|write a review

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends?

Told in language we all can understand, A Brief History of Time plunges into the exotic realms of black holes and quarks, of antimatter and “arrows of time,” of the big bang and a bigger God—where the possibilities are wondrous and unexpected. With exciting images and profound imagination, Stephen Hawking brings us closer to the ultimate secrets at the very heart of creation.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$12.53 online
$20.00 list price (save 37%)
In stock online
Ships free on orders over $25
Prices may vary. why?
Please call ahead to confirm inventory.

From Our Editors

In the decade since its publication, Stephen Hawking's classic work has become a landmark volume in scientific writing. The 10th anniversary edition of A Brief History of Time includes a new introduction from Hawking as well as an entirely new chapter on wormholes and time travel. A journey through the amazing secrets at the heart of t...

From the Publisher

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLERA landmark volume in science writing by one of the great minds of our time, Stephen Hawking’s book explores such profound questions as: How did the universe begin—and what made its start possible? Does time always flow forward? Is the universe unending—or are there boundaries? Are there other dimensions in s...

From the Jacket

"A Brief History of Time, published in 1988, was a landmark volume in science writing and in world-wide acclaim and popularity, with more than 9 million copies in print globally. The original edition was on the cutting edge of what was then known about the origins and nature of the universe. But the ensuing years have seen extraordinar...

Stephen Hawking is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge; his other books for the general reader include A Briefer History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and The Universe in a Nutshell.

other books by Stephen Hawking

The Illustrated A Brief History of Time: Updated And Expanded Edition
The Illustrated A Brief History of Time: Updated And Ex...

Hardcover|Oct 1 1996

$27.37 online$45.00list price(save 39%)
The Universe in a Nutshell
The Universe in a Nutshell

Hardcover|Nov 6 2001

$29.07 online$53.00list price(save 45%)
see all books by Stephen Hawking
Format:PaperbackDimensions:224 pages, 9 × 5.9 × 0.6 inPublished:September 1, 1998Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553380168

ISBN - 13:9780553380163

Look for similar items by category:

Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Briefly Genius While reading this book I learned there is a lot of this world and of myself that I have yet to discover and understand. While I would say half of this book was quite over my head in terms of quantam mechanics, the bits I learned was impressive. This book was put together probably as simple as advanced mathematics, quantam mechanics, physics, science and the universe can be put in to lament's terms. I think as I read it over, and perhaps more of his books I will continue to learn and expand my understanding of the world I live in. I am grateful that Mr. Hawkings has even taken the time to write to the 'normal' folks and masses what the brilliant minds of this world have discovered. It makes me strive to understand and learn more about who we are, where we came from and where we are heading as a civilization and as a universe.
Date published: 2011-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of My Favourite Science Books One of my favourite books is A Brief History of Time, written by Stephen Hawking. This book is famous like its author. Its wonder lies in the fact that the forefront of physics is portrayed in laymen's terms. Thus the theories behind quantum mechanics, relativity, black holes, time travel, and wormholes can all be comprehended by the average person. Every time I pick up this paperback, I feel humbled by the grandeur of our mysterious universe. Needless to say, the origin of the universe may just provide a clue to the birth of life. Of all the theories described in the book, I was most intrigued by Einstein's special theory of relativity. Before the dawn of the 20th Century, the Michelson-Morley experiment was conducted to substantiate the existence of a substance called "ether." Instead, it created a shock wave for the entire scientific community. Throughout the next twenty years, numerous futile attempts were made to explain the surprising results of the experiment. In the end, it was Einstein's special theory of relativity that came to the rescue. A remarkable consequence of relativity is that it revolutionized our ideas of space and time. Before Einstein's heydays, Newtonian physics indicated that space was not absolute, meaning different observers of a moving object may conclude differently about the distance it travelled. However, time was always assumed to be absolute, i.e., different observers would always agree on the time it took an object to traverse through space. Einstein took Newton's theories and took a step back. He claimed that if one lets go of the idea of absolute time, then we need not "invent" the idea of ether. Nor would we be troubled by the Michelson-Morley experiment. The notion of absolute time, however, is so deeply engraved in our minds that even today, it is difficult to discard. Einstein went on to come up with unconventional predictions of how objects behave when they approach the speed of light. These imaginary experiments came to be known as Einstein's paradoxes. Perhaps the most famous one is the twins paradox: A twin steps on a spaceship and travels at the speed of light for 20 years according to his watch. When he returns to Earth, he will find that much more time has indeed elapsed during his absence and his twin brother is now 100 years older than him. You might find it hard to accept this outcome. That is why it is called a paradox in the first place. However, this is not so difficult any more if you think of time being relative. Einstein's brilliance in my opinion, lies not in his discovery of relativity, but the manner in which he did it. In order to reach his conclusions, he took a step back from well known physics principles. Instead of taking for granted the firmly-entrenched view that time was absolute, he chose to doubt it. In the end, he took a completely opposite stance. As a result, every road block baffling the scientific world then was instantly removed. Einstein's work prompted me to wonder whether we can always take our assumptions for granted. Sometimes, moving a step backwards and re-evaluating popular opinion is not a bad idea. Of course, to his credit, Einstein also applied immense creativity and ingenuity to secure the fantastic success that he enjoyed. Nonetheless, I will keep this lesson in mind on my quest for knowledge. -PTS www.parttimescholar.com
Date published: 2010-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from You're supposed to be setting a good example. Science! Most of this is wrong, but since I only have 1000 words to comment, it's not like I can go into a detailed description. Let's just say that Mr. Stephen Hawking is no Good Will Hunting. With regards, Phillip Fresno.
Date published: 2004-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Theories of Time Traveling This book by Stephen Hawking was excellent becasue he explained each layer of the theories very well. The pictures and diagrams explained the idea of the theories. The book was well seperated so that each chapter was different, but somehow related. I learned a lot from the book, and I felt a great need of learning more on this topic. Good job, Mr.Hawking!
Date published: 2001-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction to quantum mechanics and th This is an excellent read for any quantum physicist who wants to understand the basic nature and history of the universe. Perhaps one day, there will be one unifying theory for the whole of the cosmos, but until then, this book is quite satisfactory.
Date published: 2000-10-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Brief History of Time: UPDATED AND EXPANDED TENT Stephen Hawking has a knack for explaining extremely complex ideas in a manner comprehensible to a layman. Most of the theories he discusses involve complicated mathematics, yet he is able to explain them in simple terms. His wry sense of humour often peeks out from behind serious discussions, such as his opinion of the likelihood of a particle accelerator the size of the solar system being built. (unlikely under present economic circumstances) This is a book worth owning and reading several times. Each re-reading brings you a little closer to understanding the leading edge research on how the universe works.
Date published: 2000-09-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mystical Universe finally understood! Stephen Hawking has an incredible talent, for having been able to seize my brain, and actually making me understand (finally) an enormous chunk of science. His book is for anyone who wants to know more.... even though they think they wouldn't be able to understand! I loved it, and I am now interested in science, astronomy and physics more than ever... and I haven't even passed Science in High School once!!!
Date published: 2000-06-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quality This book was an excellent introduction to the world of advanced physics. Hawking has a gift for explaining abstractions in simple terms. I need to take a breather, then read it again just to soak up more of what it has to offer.
Date published: 2000-02-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from prerequisite: none I liked how Stephen Hawking explains in plain English how the universe was created. There are also some crazy theories on black holes (like harnessing their power to fuel things on earth) and time travel that I could actually understand. I FEEL smarter having read this book.
Date published: 1999-12-17

Extra Content

Read from the Book

Chapter OneOur picture of the universeA well-known scientist (some say it was Bertrand Russell) once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”Most people would find the picture of our universe as an infinite tower of tortoises rather ridiculous, but why do we think we know better? What do we know about the universe, and how do we know it? Where did the universe come from, and where is it going? Did the universe have a beginning, and if so, what happened before then? What is the nature of time? Will it ever come to an end? Can we go back in time? Recent breakthroughs in physics, made possible in part by fantastic new technologies, suggest answers to some of these longstanding questions. Someday these answers may seem as obvious to us as the earth orbiting the sun–or perhaps as ridiculous as a tower of tortoises. Only time (whatever that may be) will tell.As long ago as 340 B.C. the Greek philosopher Aristotle, in his book On the Heavens, was able to put forward two good arguments for believing that the earth was a round sphere rather than a flat plate. First, he realized that eclipses of the moon were caused by the earth coming between the sun and the moon. The earth’s shadow on the moon was always round, which would be true only if the earth was spherical. If the earth had been a flat disk, the shadow would have elongated and elliptical, unless the eclipse always occurred at a time when the sun was directly under the center of the disk. Second, the Greeks knew from their travels that the North Star appeared lower in the sky when viewed in the south than it did in more northerly regions. (Since the North Star lies over the North Pole, it appears to be directly above an observer at the North Pole, but to someone looking from the equator, it appears to lie just at the horizon. From the difference in the apparent position of the North Star in Egypt and Greece, Aristotle even quoted an estimate that the distance around the earth was 400,000 stadia. It is not known exactly what length a stadium was, but it may have been about 200 yards, which would make Aristotle’s estimate about twice the currently accepted figure. The Greeks even had a third argument that the earth must be round, for why else does one first see the sails of a ship coming over the horizon, and only later see the hull?Aristotle thought the earth was stationary and that the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars moved in circular orbits about the earth. He believed this because he felt, for mystical reasons, that the earth was the center of the universe, and that circular motion was the most perfect. This idea was elaborated by Ptolemy in the second century A.D. into a complete cosmological model. The earth stood at the center, surrounded by eight spheres that carried the moon, the sun, the stars, and the five planets known at the time, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn (Fig 1.1). The planets themselves moved on smaller circles attached to their respective spheres in order to account for their rather complicated observed paths in the sky. The outermost sphere carried the so-called fixed stars, which always stay in the same positions relative to each other but which rotate together across the sky. What lay beyond the last sphere was never made very clear, but it certainly was not part of mankind’s observable universe.Ptolemy’s model provided a reasonably accurate system for predicting the positions of heavenly bodies in the sky. But in order to predict these positions correctly, Ptolemy had to make an assumption that the moon followed a path that sometimes brought it twice as close to the earth as at other times. And that meant that the moon ought sometimes to appear twice as big as at other times! Ptolemy recognized this flaw, but nevertheless his model was generally, although not universally, accepted. It was adopted by the Christian church as the picture of the universe that was in accordance with Scripture, for it had the great advantage that it left lots of room outside the sphere of fixed stars for heaven and hell.A simpler model, however, was proposed in 1514 by a Polish priest, Nicholas Copernicus. (At first, perhaps for fear of being branded a heretic by his church, Copernicus circulated his model anonymously.) His idea was that the sun was stationary at the center and that the earth and the planets moved in circular orbits around the sun. Nearly a century passed before this idea was taken seriously. Then two astronomers–the German, Johannes Kepler, and the Italian, Galileo Galilei–started publicly to support the Copernican theory, despite the fact that the orbits it predicted did not quite match the ones observed. The death blow to the Aristotelian/Ptolemaic theory came in 1609. In that year, Galileo started observing the night sky with a telescope, which had just been invented. When he looked at the planet Jupiter, Galileo found that it was accompanied by several small satellites or moons that orbited around it. This implied that everything did not have to orbit directly around the earth, as Aristotle and Ptolemy had thought. (It was, of course, still possible to believe that the earth was stationary at the center of the universe and that the moons of Jupiter moved on extremely complicated paths around the earth, giving the appearance that they orbited Jupiter. However, Copernicus’s theory was much simpler.) At the same time, Johannes Kepler had modified Copernicus’s theory, suggesting that the planets moved not in circles but in ellipses (an ellipse is an elongated circle). The predictions now finally matched the observations.As far as Kepler was concerned, elliptical orbits were merely an ad hoc hypothesis, and a rather repugnant one at that, because ellipses were clearly less perfect than circles. Having discovered almost by accident that elliptical orbits fit the observations well, he could not reconcile them with his idea that the planets were made to orbit the sun by magnetic forces. An explanation was provided only much later, in 1687, when Sir Isaac Newton published his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, probably the most important single work ever published in the physical sciences. In it Newton not only put forward a theory of how bodies move in space and time, but he also developed the complicated mathematics needed to analyze those motions. In addition, Newton postulated a law of universal gravitation according to which each body in the universe was attracted toward every other body by a force that was stronger the more massive the bodies and the closer they were to each other. It was this same force that caused objects to fall to the ground. (The story that Newton was inspired by an apple hitting his head is almost certainly apocryphal. All Newton himself ever said was that the idea of gravity came to him as he sat “in a contemplative mood” and “was occasioned by the fall of an apple.”) Newton went on to show that, according to his law, gravity causes the moon to move in an elliptical orbit around the earth and causes the earth and the planets to follow elliptical paths around the sun.The Copernican model got rid of Ptolemy’s celestial spheres, and with them, the idea that the universe had a natural boundary. Since “fixed stars” did not appear to change their positions apart from a rotation across the sky caused by the earth spinning on its axis, it became natural to suppose that the fixed stars were objects like our sun but very much farther away.Newton realized that, according to his theory of gravity, the stars should attract each other, so it seemed they could not remain essentially motionless. Would they not all fall together at some point? In a letter in 1691 to Richard Bentley, another leading thinker of his day, Newton argued that his would indeed happen if there were only a finite number of stars distributed over a finite region of space. But he reasoned that if, on the other hand, there were an infinite number of stars, distributed more or less uniformly over infinite space, this would not happen, because there would not be any central point for them to fall to.This argument is an instance of the pitfalls that you can encounter in talking about infinity. In an infinite universe, every point can be regarded as the center, because every point has an infinite number of stars on each side of it. The correct approach, it was realized only much later, is to consider the finite situation, in which the stars all fall in on each other, and then to ask how things change if one adds more stars roughly uniformly distributed outside this region. According to Newton’s law, the extra stars would make no difference at all to the original ones on average, so the stars would fall in just as fast. We can add as many stars as we like, but they will still always collapse in on themselves. We now know it is impossible to have an infinite static model of the universe in which gravity is always attractive.It is an interesting reflection on the general climate of thought before the twentieth century that no one had suggested that the universe was expanding or contracting. It was generally accepted that either the universe had existed forever in an unchanging state, or that it had been created at a finite time in the past more or less as we observe it today. In part this may have been due to people’s tendency to believe in eternal truths, as well as the comfort they found in the thought that even though they may grow old and die, the universe is eternal and unchanging.Even those who realized that Newton’s theory of gravity showed that the universe could not be static did not think to suggest that it might be expanding. Instead, they attempted to modify the theory by making the gravitational force repulsive at very large distances. This did not significantly affect their predictions of the motions of the planets, but it allowed an infinite distribution of stars to remain in equilibrium–with the attractive forces between nearby stars balanced by the repulsive forces from those that were farther away. However, we now believe such an equilibrium would be unstable: if the stars in some region got only slightly nearer each other, the attractive forces between them would become stronger and dominate over the repulsive forces so that the stars would continue to fall toward each other. On the other hand, if the stars got a bit farther away from each other, the repulsive forces would dominate and drive them farther apart.Another objection to an infinite static universe is normally ascribed to the German philosopher Heinrich Olbers, who wrote about this theory in 1823. In fact, various contemporaries of Newton had raised the problem, and the Olbers article was not even the first to contain plausible arguments against it. It was, however, the first to be widely noted. The difficulty is that in an infinite static universe nearly every line of sight would end on the surface of a star. Thus one would expect that the whole sky would be as bright as the sun, even at night. Olbers’s counterargument was that the light from distant stars would be dimmed by absorption by intervening matter. However, if that happened the intervening matter would eventually heat up until it glowed as brightly as the stars. The only way of avoiding the conclusion that the whole of the night sky should be as bright as the surface of the sun would be to assume that the stars had not been shining forever but had turned on at some finite time in the past. In that case the absorbing matter might not have heated up yet or the light from distant stars might not yet have reached us. And that brings us to the question of what could have caused the stars to have turned on in the first place.The beginning of the universe had, of course, been discussed long before this. According to a number of early cosmologies and the Jewish/Christian/Muslim tradition, the universe started at a finite, and not very distant, time in the past. One argument for such a beginning was the feeling that it was necessary to have “First Cause” to explain the existence of the universe. (Within the universe, you always explained one event as being caused by some earlier event, but the existence of the universe itself could be explained in this way only if it had some beginning.) Another argument was put forward by St. Augustine in his book The City of God. He pointed out that civilization is progressing and we remember who performed this deed or developed that technique. Thus man, and so also perhaps the universe, could not have been around all that long. St. Augustine accepted a date of about 5000 B.C. for the Creation of the universe according to the book of Genesis. (It is interesting that this is not so far from the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 B.C., which is when archaeologists tell us that civilization really began.)Aristotle, and most of the other Greek philosophers, on the other hand, did not like the idea of a creation because it smacked too much of divine intervention. They believed, therefore, that the human race and the world around it had existed, and would exist, forever. The ancients had already considered the argument about progress described above, and answered it by saying that there had been periodic floods or other disasters that repeatedly set the human race right back to the beginning of civilization.

From Our Editors

In the decade since its publication, Stephen Hawking's classic work has become a landmark volume in scientific writing. The 10th anniversary edition of A Brief History of Time includes a new introduction from Hawking as well as an entirely new chapter on wormholes and time travel. A journey through the amazing secrets at the heart of time and space, this is one of the best books on astrophysics for the common reader.

Editorial Reviews

“[Hawking] can explain the complexities of cosmological physics with an engaging combination of clarity and wit. . . . His is a brain of extraordinary power.”—The New York Review of Books“This book marries a child’s wonder to a genius’s intellect. We journey into Hawking’s universe while marvelling at his mind.”—The Sunday Times (London) “Masterful.”—The Wall Street Journal“Charming and lucid . . . [A book of] sunny brilliance.”—The New Yorker“Lively and provocative . . . Mr. Hawking clearly possesses a natural teacher’s gifts—easy, good-natured humor and an ability to illustrate highly complex propositions with analogies plucked from daily life.”—The New York Times“Even as he sits helpless in his wheelchair, his mind seems to soar ever more brilliantly across the vastness of space and time to unlock the secrets of the universe.”—Time