Book Review: A Brief History of Time

Stephen Hawking, a brief history of time, science, book review, black holes, girl science, universe, origin, time

It’s time for the review of February’s 2016 science read!

My selection for February was Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. My overall impression? Well, as both a fantasy and sci-fi reader/writer, I have to say Hawking’s book is chockfull of some really great concepts that any sci-fi writer could sink their teeth into. In A Brief History, Hawking talks about what really occurs around black holes (and also speculates what happens once someone or something falls into a black hole), possible theories as to the origin and the fate of the universe, the possibilities of wormholes and time travel, and (my personal favorite) the concept of imaginary time.

I’m also pretty chuffed that I chose A Brief History of Time for my February read because just as I finished reading the chapter where Hawking talks about black holes and the theory of gravitational waves, well… what have you, scientists at LIGO announce they have finally detected the presence of gravitational waves in space! So that was pretty exciting and pretty timely as well.

The layman reader would ask – was Stephen Hawking’s book an easy or difficult read? Well, probably both. That chapter on elementary particles really did my head in, for one. I was also quite glad I had read Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything for my January science read before I tackled Hawking’s A Brief History of Time (a lot of histories here!). Hawking expands on a number of subjects Bryson has already touched on in his book such as space-time, string theory and Einstein’s relativity, and he also makes casual references to things like quarks, gluons and particles, where I would probably have been completely lost had I not first read Bryson’s book. Also, while Hawking is without doubt one of the most brilliant brains of our time, I have to admit Bryson does a better job of explaining some of these concepts to the layman. (Though, I would say, Hawking has finally explained the concept of disorder in thermodynamics laws in a way that I have finally, finally been able to understand what that’s all about. And also given me an excuse not to do any cleaning because, y’know, who am I to prevent the natural progression of the universe from order to disorder? Wish I had that argument up my sleeve when I was a kid and my mum was nagging me to clean my room!), So if you’re like me and a total dud at science, I would definitely recommend reading Bryson’s book before Hawking’s.

(Side note: I would also mention here that when Stephen Hawking talked about Edwin Hubble ‘noting’ the idea of comparing stars of a certain luminosity – known as standard candles – to work out the distances between galaxies, I found myself shouting, “No, he DID not, Stephen Hawking! Bill Bryson already covered this in HIS book! It wasn’t Hubble who discovered and came up with the concept of standard candles, it was a woman named Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and it was thanks to her work that Hubble was able to measure the distances between galaxies! Credit where credit’s due, please!”)


All that aside, I really did enjoy reading Stephen Hawking’s book. It’s a fascinating read and has definitely opened up a lot of new worlds for me to think about. If you’re interested in finding out just what black holes are and exploring the concepts of space-time, time travel, string theory and the possible origin of our universe, this is the book for you.

Now we’re finished with February and onto March! I thought for a long time about what my March read should be and at last decided to further explore the fascinating concept of time with Sean Carroll’s From Eternity to Here.

To infinity and beyond!


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