Boathouse Row Philadelphia, PA

Main menu:

← Back to library

The Grand Design

By Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow

The Grand Design

You can view this book's Amazon detail page here.


Started reading:
9th September 2010
Finished reading:
16th September 2010


Rating: Unrated

I have just finished Stephen Hawking’s latest block buster book, The Grand Design. I guess it’s to be expected that anyone who has spent nearly their entire adult life contemplating our most fundamental cosmic questions would eventually turn to the role of God, our role in the universe and where we (and the universe) came from.
The Grand Design has already created quite some stir in the popular press. I guess it’s to be expected that anyone with a scientific background addressing the “G-word” would attract lots of attention. And when that person has the credentials of Stephen Hawking the attention is worldwide. Stephen Hawking is perhaps uniquely qualified among today’s physicists to address these questions. For 30 years he has been the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, retiring from this position last year. He has been a leading theoretical physicist and cosmologist and contributed to much our understanding of quantum gravity and black holes.
The Grand Design is a small book of only 208 pages but don’t be miss led by its size. The authors have packed some very profound insights into to a small space. They use very concise non-mathematical descriptions of key quantum physics principles and experiments. There are clear descriptions of Heisenberg uncertainty principle, double slit experiments, and Feynman histories that are crucial physics foundations. In several chapters these descriptions, while making for quick reading, maybe too concise for the reader without some quantum physics background. Quantum physics is so counterintuitive it takes most people some time to fully grasp the implications.
In the latter chapters, even the reader with knowledge of quantum physics well be best served by some re-reading and thoughtful contemplation.
Despite the recent statements in the popular press (probably based on “dust cover” reading or publicist sound bites), Stephen Hawking does NOT assert that there is no God. Stephen simply (and profoundly) explains that today’s universe came into being through fundamental laws of Nature and quantum physics and doesn’t require the active direction of God. While the scientific evidence cited by Stephen may not sit well with advocates of Intelligent Design, The Grand Design provides a very concise explanation of how fundamental physical laws resulted in the universe that we observe. Nowhere does he address the even larger question (and here always will be an even larger question) of the origin of the laws of Nature and quantum physics.
I highly recommend The Grand Design as a thought provoking book that provides answers to some very profound questions of our time.
As a side note, I find it unfortunate that Carl Sagan isn’t with us any longer. He left us before some of the key unifying ideas such as multi-universes and M-theory were developed. I would be very interested in his perspective on these cosmic questions. I can’t help but think he would provide some very articulate views on these same questions.