If you think this looks like it belongs here, you haven’t been paying attention. No, books about cosmology, quantum physics, and beyond aren’t what I typically read and I’m clearly not qualified to review them. I was given the book as a gift, I read and enjoyed it, and I intend to tell somebody about it.
Note that I said “read and enjoyed”, not “read and understood”. I suppose it is a sort of “Quantum Physics for Dummies” but quantum physics is not really a field for dummies. The way the book worked for me was as history and as a glossary. Bits of the history of mankind’s progress in understanding his world is scattered throughout with references to folks like Archimedes and Newton and Einstein. There is a real glossary at the back but I felt as if the body of the book gave me a glossary level understanding of things. As I read about string theory, multiverses, no-boundary conditions, and the like, I may have understood the definitions but fell a little short of fully comprehending the concepts. I don’t mean that I was constantly shaking my head and moving on in bewilderment. I simply mean there were no “ah-ha, of course the world needs quarks” moments.
There are frequent almost folksy attempts at humor or lightness. Some bring on a smile; Many don’t. But I think they all do their job as reminders of just who this is written for. I did not have a thorough understanding of quantum physics when I finished my reading but I did have confidence that others do. I guess that’s really what I got out of the book. I think there’s something of a tendency for us “civilians” to dismiss stuff like multiple universes as crazy talk but there really are people who can get their heads around the theory and I find that reassuring. Maybe some of the ideas really are half baked but the truly wrong ones will eventually be found out and the half right ones will be improved upon. That’s what science at this level is; Admiring and appreciating guys like Newton and Einstein while working as hard as you can to find their mistakes.
I started off admitting that this book was really out of place here. I do a lot of my reading over meals in restaurants and it was rather out of place in some of the joints where I eat, too. I quickly worked out a way to carry the book that cut down considerably on the funny looks aimed my way.
The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, Bantam, 2012, paperback, 6 x 9 inches, 208 pages, ISBN 978-0553384666