Daily Recco, January 9: A bigger bang and why Sheldon is a fan
A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes is an idiot's guide to understanding the universe through the eyes of theoretical physics. Straight from the master, Dr Stephen Hawking.
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Ever tried to decipher what Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory says when he speaks physics? Yes, physics is a language and if it sounds akin to Green or Latin to you, we have a beginner's guide to recommend today. Don’t worry, we are not sending you back to the textbooks that you abandoned in school, but to something far more interesting. And this book is authored by Cooper’s hero — Dr Stephen Hawking. So you can be assured of the quality of content. Incidentally, it is also Hawking’s birth anniversary today.
The book is called A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes and was first published in 1988. The book is a product of Hawking’s years of groundbreaking research in theoretical physics. However, fret not, the book is by no stretch of the imagination a dry or a highly technical read. Planning the topics for the book — from explaining how far humankind had come in the understanding of the universe, or how we might be very close to finding a unified theory of the cosmos — came as Hawking’s real challenge. The scientist contacted an agent and said that he wanted to write a bestseller that he hoped would be “the sort of book that would sell in airport bookstores.”
The cover of the first edition published in 1988. (Photo: Wikimedia commons)
Obviously, the agent laughed the idea off. “He told me there was no chance of that,” Hawking told the Wall Street Journal in a 2013 interview. “It might sell well to academics and students, but a book like that couldn’t break into bestseller territory.” The adamant Hawking, however, wrote, rewrote, and re-rewrote it many more times to bring out A Brief History of Time. And the book on the origin of the universe, and its eventual fate, made it beyond the bestseller category. It had a 147-week stint on the New York Times bestseller list, a record-breaking 237 weeks on the Times of London bestseller list, with more than 10 million copies having been sold till date. The book has been translated into dozens of languages for a wider reach.
The book explains topics in cosmology like the Big Bang Theory (not the series), black holes, the theory of relativity, light cones, time travel and wormholes to lay readers. While cosmology pertains to understand the nature of God and whether God exists at all, Hawking suffers from no such compunctions. He deals with cosmology as science and approaches it with empirical observations rather than delving into the philosophical aspects.
So if you are the sort who either wants to make sense of the universe or the sort that wants to simply understand Sheldon’s physics jargon better, this is your go-to book. Pick it up over the weekend to travel into the realms of the unknown universe holding Hawking’s hand.