Stephen Hawking 1942–
(Full name Stephen William Hawking) English cosmologist, mathematician, author, and editor.
The following entry presents an overview of Hawking's career through 1997. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volume 63.
Hawking is considered one of the most influential and important theoretical physicists of the twentieth century. His theories on black holes and his search for a grand unification theory, which would link the theories of relativity with those of quantum mechanics, have propelled him into the scientific ranks of Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. He has attracted widespread public interest through his best-selling work A Brief History of Time (1988).
Hawking was born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo's death, January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England. His father was a research scientist specializing in tropical diseases and his mother was a secretary; Hawking was the first of four children. He received a first-class honors degree from Oxford in 1962 and proceeded to Cambridge University to pursue graduate studies in cosmology. In 1965, he completed his dissertation on black holes and received his Ph.D. He received a fellowship in theoretical physics at Cambridge and continued his work on black holes. At the age of thirty-two, Hawking was named a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1978 he received the Albert Einstein award of the Lewis and Rose Strauss Memorial Fund, the most prestigious award in theoretical physics. The next year he was named Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a position he continues to hold and one which was once occupied by Newton. While a student, Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," a degenerative disease of the nerve cells that control muscular movement. Hawking eventually became unable to move except for his fingers, and in the early 1980s he also lost the ability to speak; he now communicates with the aid of a talking computer. Hawking married linguist Jane Wilde in 1965; the two later divorced and he has since remarried. Hawking has three children from his first marriage.
Hawking first gained recognition for his doctoral thesis concerning black holes, on which he collaborated with Roger Penrose, a mathematician. Hawking and Penrose demonstrated the validity of black holes, which scientists had previously been reluctant to acknowledge due to a lack of empirical evidence or mathematical proof. Hawking later suggested that some subatomic particles and radiation could escape from a black hole, summarized in his famous statement, "black holes ain't so black." In his most popular work, A Brief History of Time, which reached the best-seller list in both America and Britain, Hawking related the discoveries and implications of his lifetime of work. Written for the layman, A Brief History of Time offers a survey of historical and modern developments in physics, addresses various cosmological theories, and relates Hawking's quest for the unification of physics. Hawking followed A Brief History of Time with Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993), a collection of essays and speeches which provide an overview of his scholarship as well as insight into his physical disability. The Nature of Space and Time (1996), which explores general relativity quantization, is drawn from a series of lectures Hawking and Penrose presented in Cambridge in 1994.
Most of Hawking's writings are highly technical and understandable only to a small, highly specialized audience. Accordingly, general-readership reviewers have reacted most strongly to his works aimed at a popular audience. A Brief History of Time has been widely acclaimed as a clear, informative, and entertaining introduction to complex ideas that have significantly challenged traditional scientific and metaphysical views of the cosmos. Jeremy Bernstin stated, "The most original parts of Hawking's book consist of the descriptions of his own work. Since this has been of such great importance in modern cosmological theory, and since he describes it so lucidly, this gives the general reader an opportunity to learn some deep science directly from the scientist." Hawking's overall scholarship and theories also receive praise from his peers, but some debate certain elements of his work. Some philosophers have criticized Hawking's cosmology—his interpretations of the impact that his scientific theories have on religion and the origins of the universe. John Leslie defended A Brief History of Time, arguing that "the book's central ideas made it of greater philosophical interest than almost all the volumes ever written by philosophers," but conceded that Hawking's arguments "are highly oracular." Michael Rowan-Robinson, however, said of The Nature of Time and Space, "This elegant little volume provides a clear account of two approaches to some of the greatest unsolved problems of gravitation and cosmology."
The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time [with G. F. R. Ellis] (nonfiction) 1973
General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey [editor; with Werner Israel] (essays) 1979
Three Hundred Years of Gravitation [editor; with Israel] (essays) 1987
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (nonfiction) 1988
Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time: A Reader's Companion [editor] (nonfiction) 1992
Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (essays) 1993
The Nature of Space and Time [with Roger Penrose] (nonfiction) 1996
(The entire section is 76 words.)
SOURCE: "Much-Esteemed Theory," in Science, Vol. 182, No. 4113, November 16, 1973, pp. 705-06.
[In the following review, DeWitt states that The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time is a masterpiece but laments that it is primarily for mathematicians and not physicists.]
Ask a prospective graduate student in theoretical physics what area he hopes to work in, and the chances today are better than 50-50 that he will reply "gravitation theory." This has caused problems for some physics departments, but it shows where the action is—or at least where many students think the action is. This prejudiced reviewer happens to think the students are right—in that the theory of gravity poses some of the most challenging conceptual problems in physics, problems that touch the foundations of nearly all physical theories. The students are simply expressing a gut awareness of the fact.
The theoretical framework for gravitational research has remained unaltered for nearly 60 years. Although proper attention, both experimental and theoretical, has been given to alternative theories, the theory is still Einstein's general relativity, as it was in 1916. The remarkable stability of this theory may fairly be attributed to the extreme practical difficulties one encounters in attempting to devise crucial experiments to challenge it. The challenges it faces today have mostly been devised from...
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SOURCE: "General Relativity since Einstein," in Science, Vol. 207, No. 4431, February 8, 1980, pp. 631-32.
[In the review below, Sciama remarks favorably on the essays collected in General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey.]
To celebrate the centenary of Albert Einstein Stephen Hawking and Werner Israel have gathered together 16 papers by leading authorities on general relativity. Their total impact is overwhelmingly powerful. Together they provide an outstanding modern account that covers all the important aspects: observational, mathematical, astrophysical, cosmological, and quantum mechanical. It shows very clearly that general relativity has come of age and is now part of the mainstream of science, rich in concepts and techniques and in consequences for the rest of physics and for astronomy.
The history behind this development is an interesting one. It took Einstein ten years of painful and essentially lonely effort to pass from special relativity to the general theory. Almost immediately thereafter some of the main consequences of thetheory were established: the Schwarzschild solution, the three crucial tests, the cosmological models, gravitational waves. This was succeeded by a fallow period (which Einstein, sadly, did not outlive), resulting partly from the paucity of observations and partly from the rapid growth of quantum mechanics.
Then in the late...
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SOURCE: "The Universe and Dr. Hawking," in New York Times Magazine, January 23, 1983, pp. 16-19, 53-9, 64.
[In the essay below, Harwood provides an overview of Hawking's life and works.]
The theoretical physicist, although he deals in such arcane, modern concepts as curved time and space, is part of a philosophical and spiritual tradition older than recorded history. He seeks to know not just life as he experiences it but how the hidden parts of the universe work and fit together. Ultimately he hopes to learn if and how and why the universe began and if and how and why it will end.
These questions and the new knowledge to which they lead are so far from our daily round of getting, spending, surviving and reproducing that they demand a special language and symbolism in which to discuss them. That isolates the theoretical physicist from the intellectual mainstream, yet the rewards may be cosmic in scope, for the physicist seeks grand answers that will affect the lives of everyone—on spiritual and practical levels—forever after.
The seeking requires a certain amount of visible action—the communication of ideas with colleagues, the publication of papers. Mostly, however, it requires that the physicist think. "There's no other way to put it," says William Press, chairman ofthe astronomy department at Harvard. "He also thinks about the thinking process. If he...
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SOURCE: "Newton Tercentenary," in Science, Vol. 240, No. 4855, May 20, 1988, pp. 1069-70.
[In the review below, Parker discusses the essays contained in Three Hundred Years of Gravitation.]
[Three Hundred Years of Gravitation] is a collection of 16 solicited contributions published in association with a Newton Tercentenary Conference held last summer at Trinity College, Cambridge, and summarizing the state of gravitation 300 years after the publication of Isaac Newton's Principia. The initial essays by Stephen W. Hawking and Steven Weinberg discuss Newton's greatest achievements. These include his development of the laws of mechanics, the universal inverse square law of gravitation, and the calculus. Weinberg feels that at the heart of the greatness of the Newtonian achievement is the fact that "mankind for the first time saw the glimpse of a possibility of a comprehensive quantitative understanding of all of nature." Hawking points out that the Newtonian universal law of gravitation is inconsistent with the idea held in Newton's time that the universe is filled with a static and nearly uniform distribution of stars extending infinitely in all directions. As Hawking shows, Newton used a fallacious argument to justify a static universe. When Einstein first published his theory of general relativity (which includes Newtonian gravitation as an important limit), his equations did not permit a...
(The entire section is 1270 words.)
SOURCE: "The Cosmic Questions," in Christian Science Monitor, Vol. 80, No. 103, May 22, 1988, pp. 19-20.
[In the following review, Cowen praises A Brief History of Time but warns that understanding its ideas will require some effort on the part of the reader.]
"Where have we come from? What are we? Where are we going?" These fundamental questions, which inspired Gauguin's famous picture, also give Stephen Hawking his theme. Gauguin expressed them in the imagery of painting. Dr. Hawking explores them through the concepts of physical science.
The great problem of being—its source, nature, and destiny or(to put it in physical terms) the origin, evolution, and fate of our universe—that's what [A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes] is about. Time, which figures so prominently in the title, comes into it only because time and our universe are inseparable. Our universe evolves through time. Time has no meaning apart from our universe, nor do the laws of physics that Hawking uses to think incisively about his baffling subject.
Gauguin posed his questions with a sense of despair at getting any answer. Hawking writes with the physicist's faith that scientific exploration can at least put the enigma into new and unexpected perspective. People, he says, "yearn to know why we are here and where we came from … [this] is justification enough...
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SOURCE: "Reading God's Mind," in Newsweek, June 13, 1988, pp. 56-9.
[In the following essay, Adler juxtaposes Hawking's brilliant career with his debilitating illness.]
Like light from a collapsing star, exhausted by the struggle against gravity, the thoughts of Stephen Hawking reach us as if from a vast distance, a quantum at a time. Unable to speak, paralyzed by a progressive, incurable disease, the 46-year-old British physicist communicates with the world by a barely perceptible twitch of his fingers, generating one computer-synthesized word approximately every six seconds, consuming an entire day in composing a 10-page lecture. And the world awaits the words, for the same reason that astronomers search the heavens for the precious photons from remote galaxies, or that Newton spent his last years consumed by Biblical prophecy: Hawking is trying to read the mind of God.
He believes he is as close as man has ever come. It is difficult, of course, to assess the career of a great scientist while he is still relatively young and productive, but Hawking is not above giving us some hints. The jacket copy on his best-selling survey of modern cosmology, A Brief History of Time, observes that Hawking "was born on the anniversary of Galileo's death, holds Newton's chair as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University and is widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical...
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SOURCE: "Putting Infinite Space into a Nutshell," in Economist, Vol. 307, June 25, 1988, pp. 91-2.
[In the following review of A Brief History of Time, the critic states that while Hawking's theories are mind-boggling, his presentation is disappointing.]
When Stephen Hawking was diagnosed as having amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive wasting-away of the nerves that control body movements, his doctors gave him two years. Understandably, he stopped working on his PhD thesis. But at the end of two years, the disease had not progressed very far, and Mr Hawking had become engaged. He needed a job, so he needed a doctorate. That was 23 years ago.
The topic which he picked then was one which has engaged him ever since—the similarities between black holes and the big bang. His work on these subjects has made him one of the most respected physicists in the world, rising to be Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge, a post once held by Newton. But his wider fame is not due to his position, or the exact nature of his theories. It is the contrast between the body trapped in a wheelchair, able to speak only through a computer system, and the mind that ranges the cosmos which has caught the public imagination: the king of infinite space, bounded in a nutshell.
Mr Hawking's book [A Brief History of Time] is his not-altogether satisfactory explanation,...
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SOURCE: "Universal Models," in Times Literary Supplement, No. 4464, October 21-27, 1988, p. 1167.
[In the excerpt below, Reeves argues that while A Brief History of Time is well-written, Hawking fails to communicate that his ideas are based on assumptions which have yet to be proven.]
A Brief History of Time is a document, both scientific and human, about a man who has fought against a terrible illness (motor neurone disease) to become one of the leading figures in contemporary astrophysics. Stephen W. Hawking is well on his way to matching the popularity of Einstein among the general public. The book tells us about the evolution of his thinking, which has deeply influenced the face of contemporary cosmology. It should be read by everybody interested in physics and astronomy. It is also highly readable, the style being brisk, sharp and often witty. The arguments, reduced to the essential, are clearly made and convincing, and Hawking's comparisons and analogies are very much to the point. He reveals himself here as a master of scientific popularization. He asks, too, the fundamental question of cosmology: "Even if there is only one possible unified theory [of the universe], it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?"
After presenting a summary of contemporary cosmology, Hawking...
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SOURCE: "Dignifying Humanity," in Humanist, Vol. 49, No. 4, July-August 1989, pp. 29-30, 50.
[In the following essay, Organ considers the humor in Hawking's writing.]
Stephen Hawking dignifies our humanity. He was born in 1942, exactly three hundred years after the death of Galileo—as he likes to note. When he was diagnosed as having the illness commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, he dropped his graduate studies to consider what to do. Insights into life and its possibilities came with meeting and marrying Jane and in begetting three children—Robert, Lucy, and Timmy. For the past twenty years, he has been confined to his wheelchair. He has little control over his muscles, and he can no longer speak. Yet, he writes, "Apart from being unlucky enough to get ALS, or motor neuron disease, I have been fortunate in almost every other respect." He is the Lucasian Professor of Medicine at Cambridge University, a post once held by Newton. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of London and is widely acclaimed as the most brilliant physicist since Einstein. The unified field theory to which Einstein unsuccessfully devoted the last twenty years of his life is now within reach of Hawking—at least, so many think. Hawking, however, has recently said that this theory will require the work of younger and more adventurous minds.
In 1982, Hawking decided to write a popular book about space and...
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SOURCE: "Cosmic Quarrel," in Scientific American, Vol. 261, October, 1989, pp. 22, 26.
[In the following essay, the critic discusses the theoretical disagreement between Hawking and philosopher Huw Price.]
Theoretical physicists, equipped with counterintuitive perceptions and a formidable mathematical armory, are considered by philosophers to be armed and dangerous. Their turf—however interesting—is usually avoided. Huw Price, a philosopher from the University of Sidney, belongs to a different breed. He has taken on Stephen W. Hawking of the University of Cambridge, one of the world's leading cosmologists. The rift developed over whether Hawking has, as he claims, found a possible explanation for the arrow of time.
Time occupies a strange place in the cosmological scheme of things. Most physical laws would allow the universe to run equally well forward or backward. The major exception is a relentless tendency for the extent of disorder in the universe, or entropy, to increase. In his best-selling book A Brief History of Time, Hawking argues that the tendency toward entropy underlies the psychological experience that we know as time. He makes the connection by observing that living things can exist and record memories, thus gaining a sense of time, only by overcoming the rising tide of entropy within a local region. To do so, they have to use energy supplied by the sun. So,...
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SOURCE: "Stephen Hawking and the Mind of God," in Commonweal, Vol. CXVII, No. 7, April 6, 1990, p. 218.
[In the following review, Raymo suggests why A Brief History of Time has enjoyed such popular success.]
The longevity of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes on international best-seller lists is itself a phenomenon worthy of scientific investigation. As I write, the book has been on the American list for more than ninety weeks. For a work on relativity and quantum physics to achieve this distinction is unprecedented.
Hawking is a physicist with a particular interest in cosmology. He has achieved theoretical insights of remarkable originality, particularly with regard to the quantum physics of black holes. In A Brief History of Time he describes his personal discoveries within the context of our current understanding of the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.
Hawking interprets modern cosmology with admirable clarity, but his book is hardly a "gripping" read. So what accounts for the book's extraordinary popular appeal? Some uncharitable critics have suggested that A Brief History of Time is more a publicity event than a book, that it is bought but not read, and that its main value is as a coffee-table status symbol. Best sellers do have a way of generating their own aura of...
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SOURCE: "Master of the Universe," in Washington Post Book World, Vol. XXII, No. 23, June 7, 1992, p. 11.
[In the following review, Benford surveys Hawking's life and work.]
When I first came to know Stephen Hawking in the 1970s, his speech was already nearly unintelligible to all but hisintimates. Yet with laconic humor he soon showed himself to be a complex man who refused to be treated condescendingly because of his slowly worsening "Lou Gehrig's disease." He could be funny, arrogant, pensive, unafraid to bluntly tell others they were wrong, speculative one moment and intricately precise the next.
This is the Hawking who shines through both these books [Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time: A Reader's Companion and Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science, by Michael White and John Gribbin]. The Reader's Companion in fact spotlights his companions, with anecdotes related by friends and colleagues. It touches on some of Hawking's startling ideas, with elegantly simple illustrations. White and Gribbin's casually effective biography gives much more of the story, plus thumbnail sketches of how scientists work, think and argue. Their portrait of science as a lived experience in our time is telling and savvy.
Hawking himself rightly scoffs at references to himself as the "new Einstein." He is certainly one of the most influential—and more important,...
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SOURCE: "State of Mind," in New Republic, Vol. 207, No. 14, September 28, 1992, pp. 28, 30.
[In the review below, Kauffmann praises A Reader's Companion and the film inspired by Hawking's A Brief History of Time.]
Bantam has recently published A Reader's Companion to A Brief History of Time, edited by Stephen Hawking, and a companion it is—not to the book but to the documentary film of that title just released here. Hawking says in his foreword that "this is The Book of The Film of The Book. I don't know if they are planning a Film of The Book of The Film of The Book."
He can well be jocular: his joke is about a useful book about a completely fascinating film, itself occasioned by a book on theoretical physics that has sold five-and-a-half million copies in thirty languages, written—as many more millions know—by a shrunken and paralyzed Englishman, bound to a wheel-chair, who can communicate only with a "clicker" that connects with a voice synthesizer. (This, he complains, has given him an American accent. I thought it more Irish myself.)
The film, gently and empathically made, is more about the man than the work. It consists principally of interviews: with mother, sister, numerous friends, teachers, students. (Wife and children are absent; there are family difficulties.) These are interwoven with "voice"-overs by Hawking and, inevitably, poignant...
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SOURCE: A review of Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, in Washington Post Book World, Vol. XXIII, No. 37, September 12, 1993, p. 6.
[In the excerpt below, Suplee contends that while Black Holes and Baby Universes is interesting, it adds nothing new to Hawking's theories in A Brief History of Time.]
If asked to list the cruelest disappointments of modern life, most folks will cite their first date, latest paycheck and page 134 of Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time.
That is the point at which the fabled Cambridge physicist is just about to reveal his theory on the shape and fate of the whole confounded cosmos—and then notes that, of course, it can only be understood in terms of "imaginary time" whose values produce negative numbers when squared. Make that simple adjustment and presto: "The distinction between time and space disappears completely." So, alas, does comprehension.
Even brand-name brains boggle at imaginary time, and many a reader reluctantly abandoned the book in intellectual despair. But now, five years later, a new Hawking volume has arrived. And naturally expectations are high that Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays will fill the very considerable explanatory gaps left by Brief History.
But no. The new book is merely a collection of Hawking's various speeches and...
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SOURCE: "The Mind of Stephen Hawking," in Economist, Vol. 329, November 6, 1993, pp. 120-21.
[In the following review of Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, the critic states that the essays are repetitive and provide little insight about the author.]
Histories of 20th-century physics will surely have a place for Professor Stephen Hawking. So will histories of publishing. His work on the nature of black holes and the origin of the universe earned him the respect of other cosmologists. The descriptions of that work in A Brief History of Time earned him fame, record-breaking bestsellerdom, and stacks of money.
His new book is a collection of essays and speeches. The two forms are in large part indistinguishable for Mr Hawking. Before his tracheostomy, the degenerative nerve disease that confines him to a wheel-chair had so slurred his speech that his talks had to be delivered by an interpreter. Since his tracheostomy in 1985, he has used a computerised speech synthesiser, and it has given him a new lease of life as a public speaker. The pre-programmed words can be delivered to a lecture hall direct from the chair. As the man who made a film devoted to his ideas remarked, Mr Hawking, mute and immobile, has become the ultimate non-talking head.
With his condition, it has been easy to cast him as the disembodied mind of man. His intellectual...
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SOURCE: "The Art of Giving," in New Scientist, Vol. 140, No. 1900, November 20, 1993, pp. 40-1.
[In the excerpt below, Maitland writes that Black Holes and Baby Universes is patronising and not rigorous enough in its explanation of science.]
About five years ago, partly because I wanted to write about dinosaurs in a novel, partly because of some theological questions, and partly because I had a curious child, I decided to learn more about science. It was not easy to find helpful books: a quick tribute here to Stephen Hawking (A Brief History of Time), Paul Davies (for inter alia, The Mind of God), Keith Devlin (Mathematics; The New Golden Age) and many others.
Apart from learning all sorts of things to expand the mind and the imagination, I have also been forced to consider a major cultural problem that we have in Britain: while science students are supposed to be "well-rounded", arts students are not. Coming from a decidedly arts background myself, I feel deprived.
I am not alone in feeling there is something amiss here. In the 1950s C.P. Snow was writing with concern about "the two cultures". In his new book about genetics, Colin Tudge analyses the problem:
"Quite simply science [is] not in the public domain … this is far more true in Britain than in many other countries. In Britain indeed educated...
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SOURCE: "The Absolute Now," in London Review of Books, May 12, 1994, pp. 15-16.
[In the following excerpt, Leslie reviews Black Holes and Baby Universes and asserts that while he admires Hawking's work, the essays make contradictory arguments.]
After the enormous press coverage of A Brief History of Time, all the world knows that Stephen Hawking has motor neurone disease, can speak only with a computer-synthesised voice controlled by the few fingers that he can move, and fills the same Cambridge chair as Newton did. The 14 essays of the new book, together with a Christmas Day radio interview of 1992, form a very mixed bunch. They cover Hawking's early years, his experiences with slowly progressing paralysis, his views about the human race and its probable future, and some of his physical and cosmological ideas. These are introduced at levels varying from the elementary to the fairly advanced: one of the essays is his Inaugural Lecture of 1980. Mathematical formulas are avoided.
Hawking's essay number five, "A Brief History of A Brief History," tells us that despite dust-jacket photographs—not, he emphasises, a matter under his control—of the severely crippled author, the huge sales of the earlier book came as a big surprise both to him and to his publishers. I find this hard to understand. Hawking's personal history was scarcely mentioned in the book itself, but...
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SOURCE: "On the Wilder Shores of Cosmology," in Nature, Vol. 379, No. 6563, January 25, 1996, pp. 309-10.
[In the following excerpt, Rowan-Robinson remarks favorably on The Nature of Space and Time.]
Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose are well-known both for their work on the nature of black holes and for successful books for the general public. The Nature of Space and Time has its origin in a series of lectures that they gave at a study programme in 1994 at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge. They outline their past and current work on the global causal structure of space-time, singularity theorems, cosmic censorship, the laws of blackhole dynamics, quantum black holes, Schrödinger's cat paradox, the no-boundary proposal, the arrow of time, and the twistor view of space-time. This is an extremely demanding book, with many equations, and requires some knowledge of general relativity and quantum theory. The main theme of the lectures is the quantization of general relativity. Hawking's work on quantum effects near black holes and Penrose's on twistor theory have proved enormously illuminating, but few physicists, I think, believe that a full quantization of general relativity will be achieved along these paths. A better bet, surely, is string theory, despite the difficulty of developing this to the state of testable predictions. The claims made for the no-boundary proposal seem overstated. The...
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SOURCE: "Battle of the Giants," in New Scientist, Vol. 149, No. 2021, March 16, 1996, pp. 48-9.
[In the following review of The Nature of Time and Space, Barrow states that the book's debate format works well and the author's theories are clearly explained.]
General relativity and quantum theory have always held a special fascination for physicists. They govern empires that appear superficially disjoint and rule their separate dominions with a precision unmatched by any other products of the human mind. The accuracy of Einstein's general theory of relativity, for example, is demonstrated by the spectacular observations of a pulsar engaged in a gravitational pas de deux with a dead star. Einstein's expectations are born out by observations—accurate to one part in 10 14. Almost as impressive is the accuracy of the quantum theory: agreeing with experiment at one part in 10 11.
The quantum world deviates strongly from those of Newton when things are very small. By contrast, general relativity only changes Newton's predictions when gravitational fields are strong and masses are very large. These conditions rarely overlap except in the cosmological problem of the Universe's first expansive moments.
Over the past thirty years, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose have done more than anyone to further our understanding of the nature of gravitation and cosmology. Both...
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SOURCE: "Quantum Gravitationists," in Science, Vol. 272, June 7, 1996, p. 1445.
[In the following review, Wald remarks that although The Nature of Space and Time may be "too technical for a layperson," most readers "should be able to enjoy the flavor of much of the discussion."]
The theory of general relativity was formulated in a mathematically complete form 80 years ago, and the basic principles of quantum theory were laid out about 70 years ago. Nevertheless, only within the past few decades have major efforts been under way to merge these theories into a mathematically consistent and complete quantum theory of gravitation. Despite these efforts, research in quantum gravity remains highly speculative, with very few solidly established results and with wide disagreements among researchers not only about the best approach to take but even about what unresolved issues deserve the most attention.
Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose are, without question, the leading developers of our modern view of the structure of space and time. In particular, their singularity theorems and their contributions to the theory of black holes have provided us with major new insights. Both Hawking and Penrose have given considerable thought to the relationship between quantum theory and gravitation. In view of the situation noted in the paragraph above, it is not surprising that they differ widely in...
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SOURCE: A review of The Nature of Space and Time, in Physics Today, July, 1996, pp. 60-1.
[In the review below, Preskill describes The Nature of Space and Time as "a succinct and clear technical account of the penetrating work and thought of two of our most brilliant and eloquent scientists."]
The clash between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein over the meaning of quantum theory greatly clarified some fundamental issues, but to this day it is widely felt that their differences have never been satisfactorily resolved. It seems most appropriate, then, for two leading physicists of the current era to carry on the debate, and who could be better qualified than Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose? Arguably, the two most profound developments in general relativity since Einstein were the introduction of the global analysis of causal structure by Penrose an the discovery of black-hole radiance by Hawking. Furthermore, both men are justly admired for their lucidity of their writings and lectures, and they disagree sharply on some fundamental questions.
The Nature of Space and Time is based on a Hawking-Penrose debate that took place in England, at the University of Cambridge, in the spring of 1994; the "debate" consisted of alternating lectures (three by each author) followed by a final joint discussion. The lectures revealed that there is much on which Hawking and Penrose...
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Hawking, Stephen. "Handicapped People and Science." Science Digest 92, No. 9 (September 1984): 92.
Discusses his physical handicap and encourages others to make the best of their situation.
Drees, Willem B. "Stephen Hawking: Timeless Quantum Cosmology." Zygon 26 (September 1991): 378-96.
Explores the implications Hawking's cosmology has for theology.
Lovejoy, Derek. "The Dialectics of the Tenth Dimension: Some Recent Writings on Science, Philosophy and the Cosmos." Science & Society 59 (Summer 1995): 206-22.
Discusses recent work in the area of physics and society, including Hawking's A Brief History of Time.
Lovell, Bernard. "Friedmann's Expanding Universe." Times Literary Supplement, No. 4743 (25 February 1994): 5-6.
Surveys recent works on cosmology, including Hawking's Black Holes and Baby Universes.
Pollard, B. R. Review of Superspace and Supergravity, edited by Stephen Hawking and M. Rocek. British Book News (September 1981): 541.
Considers the collection a timely review of the work being done...
(The entire section is 197 words.)