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Hawking "Grand Design" tinny and inelegant


Martin
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/books/08book.html

 

"Grand Design" is co-written with a younger guy, Leonard Mlodinow.

It has about 100 pages of text, filled out with a lot of color illustrations, cartoons, and such.

The NYTimes reviewer found the text superficial, even for pop physics.

The review says the real news about the book is how "disappointingly tinny and inelegant" it is.

 

The book is selling extremely well. #1 at Amazon.com.

 

One reason may be what science writer Tim Ferris calls "Godmongering". Science books that raise issues about God tend to grab attention and may sell better on that account.

This time Hawking-Mlodinow play the "God is unnecessary" card. They seem to be saying "Science can explain why the universe came into existence and has the laws it does, so we don't need God." Sounds like a hook to get readers.

 

==sample excerpt from NYT review==

The real news about “The Grand Design,” however, isn’t Mr. Hawking’s supposed jettisoning of God, information that will surprise no one who has followed his work closely. The real news about “The Grand Design” is how disappointingly tinny and inelegant it is. The spare and earnest voice that Mr. Hawking employed with such appeal in “A Brief History of Time” has been replaced here by one that is alternately condescending, as if he were Mr. Rogers explaining rain clouds to toddlers, and impenetrable.

 

“The Grand Design” is packed with grating yuks. “If you think it is hard to get humans to follow traffic laws,” we read, “imagine convincing an asteroid to move along an ellipse.” (Oh, my.) This is the sort of book that introduces the legendary physicist Richard Feynman as “a colorful character who worked at the California Institute of Technology and played the bongo drums at a strip joint down the road.” Mr. Hawking has written “The Grand Design” with Leonard Mlodinow, a fellow physicist who has also worked on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” They’re an awkward pair, part “A Beautiful Mind,” part borscht belt. This book is provocative pop science, an exploration of the latest thinking about the origins of our universe. But the air inside this literary biosphere is not especially pleasant to breathe.

==endquote==

Edited by Martin
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I think the OP makes 100% sense. There is an avid BBT following for little purpose other than asserting denial of divine creation. Plus you have to think about the reasons people buy books: books are often presents to others or to oneself meant to symbolize something about the recipient's worldview or personality. How many people either wish themselves to display their belief in the absence of divinity or see this as a defining character trait in the personality of a loved one and wish to give them a book that recognizes that? It's a fairly cheap gimmick but they will surely cash in on it richly.

Edited by lemur
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Do you think Stephen Hawking is smarter than all the other physicists in the world, or is he only in the news so much because of his popular science work and maybe to a certain extent his condition?

 

 

The real work he is famous for is now quite old.

 

1) Occurrence of Singularities in Open Universes. Physical Review Letters, vol. 15, Issue 17, pp. 689-690, 1965.

 

2) Black hole explosions? Nature 248, 30 - 31 (01 March 1974).

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I think Hawking is basing his "no God required" hypothesis on M-theory (formerly known as string theory). What most of the public do not realize is that despite its great potential, there is no single piece of clear empirical evidence to support or deny M-theory's numerous predictions. So as of this writing, it is pure speculation. As Brian Greene put it, " . . . these (new quantum gravity) theories may or may not have relevance in the real world." So I would say that Hawking's declaration is premature, to say the least. And whether it really has anything to do with the existence of "God" is another question. But it does sell books!

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http://physicsworld.com/blog/2010/09/by_hamish_johnstonstephen_hawk.html

 

==quote==

 

M-theory, religion and science funding on the BBC

By Hamish Johnston

 

This morning there was lots of talk about science on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – but I think it left many British scientists cringing under their duvets. Stephen Hawking was on the show explaining why M-theory – an 11-dimensional structure that underlies and unifies various string theories – is our best bet for understanding the origin of the universe. Hawking explained that M-theory allows the existence of a “multiverse” of different universes, each with different values of the physical constants. We exist in our universe not by the grace of God, according to Hawking, but simply because the physics in this particular universe is just right for stars, planets and humans to form.

 

There is just one tiny problem with all this – there is currently little experimental evidence to back up M-theory. In other words, a leading scientist is making a sweeping public statement on the existence of God based on his faith in an unsubstantiated theory.

 

This, and other recent pronouncements from Hawking in his new book The Grand Design were debated in a separate piece on Today by brain scientist Susan Greenfield and philosopher AC Grayling. Neither seemed too impressed with many of Hawking’s recent statements and Greenfield cautioned scientists against making “Taliban-like” statements about the existence of God.

 

That brings me to another bit of news making the headlines... to save money, the government will soon be “rationing funds by quality”. So what does this have to do with Stephen Hawking and M-theory? Physicists need the backing of the British public to ensure that the funding cuts don’t hit them disproportionately. This could be very difficult if the public think that most physicists spend their time arguing about what unproven theories say about the existence of God.

==endquote==

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  • 4 weeks later...

I lisned to the universe in a nutshell and the grand designe.

 

I think what Hawkings like his American counterpart Michi Kaku, are trying to do is put in as much Layman terms as they can new theretical thinking,

The god hypothosis was clearly a sales tenicque, and Hawking only said you don't need God he didn't say there isn't one , and I feel he wanted to distance himself from the Religious lot who claimned beautifull desisng and the anthrpic Principle and the Big Bang PROVED that God exist.

Ther's a little bit too much Hawking Knocking going on in the forever Fasionable world of compotition amoungs Theoreticl Physics, 'which admitadly Hawking is not exemt from himself', but as someone who desperatly would love to understand the lot in very very very Laymans terms ,at least he has a bash at it.

 

For instance hers a question , if shinning a light on a photon or Buckball in the two slit experiment alters the destination of multiple historys, when you are not looking dose multiple histories go on only in the dark and once there is anouther source of light reverts back to classical physics.

Heres anouther question. How do you some over Histories if the histories and hence the sum is infinate you would never get to the end of the calculation?

 

Anouther thing these books are always welcom theres a publishers caled icon books in Cambridge that could do wirth more introducing books on these type of subjects, thoreticl or fact, most facts strt off theritical nayway, and the public being of the speciese 'homo sapien sapien'being very curious and very tmprometal and dangerouse, need to know what were all about, before they do something silly like blow us all up, so all you budding scientists could mabe stop bickering and start writting

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At first I was disappointed to hear this book had to do with the role of God or not in creating the universe. There are more interesting approaches to theology than that. However, when I realized the press release contained the statement that gravity alone was enough to result in the big bang, I began to wonder if the book actually addresses how gravitational force alone could result in the generation of matter and energy. I don't know if I'm interpreting the press releases right, but if that issue is addressed in the book, I would find it very interesting.

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The real work he is famous for is now quite old.

 

1) Occurrence of Singularities in Open Universes. Physical Review Letters, vol. 15, Issue 17, pp. 689-690, 1965.

 

2) Black hole explosions? Nature 248, 30 - 31 (01 March 1974).

 

+1 Indeed.

 

Hawking has some hugely cited papers ("Particle creation by black holes" has 3088 cites on ADS which is incredible) but his popular work is old (1970s - 1980s). Let's compare Hawking with Kip Thorne, who is another top mind in that field, and has a similar age:

 

* Thorne has more than twice as many published papers as Hawking.

* Thorne has slightly more total citations than Hawking.

* In the last 5 years Hawking has published 13 papers compared to Thorne's 200.

* Hawking's recent work has been cited 219 times, while Thorne's has been cited 3570 times.

 

While Hawking's contributions are indeed significant, does he really deserve to be so famous while Thorne is largely unknown?

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