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Brief history of time any good?

  1. Feb 21, 2007 #1
    "Brief history of time" any good?

    I'm a compulsive book-buyer. I don't know if anyone else suffers from this, but I can't even walk by a book store without coming out with something... and the books end up piling as I buy them at a rate which would not be humanly possible to keep up with without the help of adult-diapers, an I.V, and the lobotomy of sleep regulators...

    anyway, today I saw "brief history of time" by Hawking sitting there; I've heard of the book... and I thought this time I'd ask before I buy (I did end up buying another book... ugh, just as i was leaving!).

    anyway, is it any good? the reviews on Amazon span from people who thought it was too basic and doesn't explain enough, to people who found it hard bordering incomprehensibility, to people who bought it because he talks like robot. so it wasn't very helpful.

    I've got into physics only in the past few months, so I have only a basic understanding of physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, etc. ... I have what I would call the skeleton of the house, and am ready to start adding bricks and pipelines... maybe some day even toilets (I have no clue what that means, I totally lost track of where that analogy was going).

    anyway, does this book just go over the basics that I already know, or is it a good step for slowly going into the details?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 21, 2007 #2
    I read this book like 15 years ago, at this time I was not even sure if wanted to do maths or physics. I would say that this book had quite an influence on me. Maybe I just read it at the right moment in my life. I still think it is a must read. As it is quite short and quite easy to read, you should enjoy it.

    But maybe you should listen to people who read it more recently. It sure becomes out of date (it is 20 years old...).
  4. Feb 21, 2007 #3
    I don't think it should be too out of date. it's the 10th anniversary edition from 1998. in the introduction he says he's added new topics/reworked old ones etc. ... so it's still almost 10 years old, but there hasn't been that many drastic changes in 10 years has there?
  5. Feb 22, 2007 #4


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    I enjoyed reading it. It's a classic Pop Sci book. Get it.
  6. Feb 22, 2007 #5
    First pop.sci book I read. It inspired me and, to an equal amount, confused me (even after the third read on the chapter on black holes!).
  7. Feb 22, 2007 #6
    Its a must read. The book is sort of a comprehensive history of science and philosophy. It really has a good way of putting so much information into perspective, and asks some good questions, I was left pondering the heavens in amazement after each chapter.
  8. Feb 22, 2007 #7
    It is most certainly not.

    It's not comprehensive; and even if it were, it has nothing to do with subjects outside mainstream high-energy theoretical physics.
  9. Feb 24, 2007 #8


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    I used to love these pop science books, and now I can't stand them anymore. I read ABHT many years ago, and found it rather confusing. Even though I'm not an avid string proponent, I found "Elegant Universe" a much clearer read, for instance.

    But the problem I have with these books is that, in as much that you know the material behind it, you find the exposition rather misleading and overly simplified, and in as much you don't know it, it remains very vague.

    What I started to dislike in these books is the childish enthousiasm and optimism.
    Maybe I grew too old.
  10. Feb 24, 2007 #9
    or too cynical :biggrin: lol joking.
    yea I can see what you're saying. I actually posted a similar comment on another thread... I find "hard" or advanced books much easier to understand than books for "beginners" on the same topic, there's just not enough detail to build the whole thing in your head...

    but pop science books are still a great source to find out what sounds interesting and then do further reading (often the sources cited in the book itself)... that's why I subscribe to Discover Magazine, and love watching shows like Carl Sagan's cosmos or by the teaching company... there's so much to know out there, that these places are a great place to find out what sounds like something I would like to pursue further.

    and I love the childish enthusiasm!... maybe because I feel it myself. The universe is a horribly beautiful, and beautifully horrible place!
  11. Feb 24, 2007 #10


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    There's a big difference. I enjoyed Sagan's TV series when it came out (see how old I am!). I think I would still enjoy it. I enjoy National Geographic. I enjoy other pop magazines. But there's a big difference between these, and books like ABHT. These things are about *actual science*. Things that specialists found out, and which are now explained to the public, in easy-to-understand language. But they are NOT about totally speculative dreams of theorists. I find it enlightening to learn some actual science stuff outside of my field of expertise, be it paleology, planetary exploration, oceanography or whatever. It is REAL STUFF. ABHT is speculative. What's the point in trying to tell non-specialists about what half-baked ideas you have that you didn't succeed in completely working out, but what they are overly enthousiastic about ?
    Carl Sagan's enthousiasm was of a different kind. It was more of "look what we've understood already!".
    Another brilliant pop book I still like a lot is "the first three minutes". It's of the same kind.

    But the "look how bright I am, I think of stuff nobody else thinks about, only, I don't know yet how it all fits together, but I'm so smart that I'm enthousiastic that I'm going to find that out one day or another" kind of books annoy me. Probably because I feel cheated, and that at some point I believed all that, just to find out (when I learned more about it) that things are not that simple.
  12. Feb 24, 2007 #11
    O, I see what you mean now... I haven't read the book yet so I have no clue what it's about.

    I enjoy both types. maybe because my career path is in the arts. and art is pretty much getting payed to speculate wild theories without the burden of having to actually prove them :) ... art is just terrible terrible science.

    ... wow! I have to get sleep now, it's 7:30 AM! ... weekends really screw up my already screwed up sleep patterns.

    p.s: I've heard of that book "the first three minutes," maybe I'll add it to my "to read" pile next time I find myself in a book store. and elegant universe was right two books before history of time at the book store, should've checked it out.
  13. Feb 25, 2007 #12
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2017
  14. Mar 1, 2007 #13
    Meh, I'm not very avid of pop sci books. I prefer technical books.
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