Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Briefer Histoy of Time by Steven Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow

Warning: I am currently in a state of shock that I understood anything written by this guy. I I never thought that I would be able to read anything written by Steven Hawking. Not because I wouldn't be interested, but because I wouldn't be able to understand it. Then last week, my library received a copy of his "Briefer History of Time", an update to his immensely popular "Brief History of Time" that came out (I think) around two decades ago. I picked up the original book once, thinking it would be interesting, then put it down when I read the book jacket. It just seemed like it would be over my head. This newer version was written with people like me in mind. I started reading it on my lunch break today, thinking to just skim through it since I know less than nothing about physics, calculus, astronomy, or anything else of that nature. Instead, I had a hard time getting back to work. The book is incredibly readable, and just as fascinating. Ok, I could have done with a little less mathematical explanations at some points - but even those are used with examples that I could grasp - like playing ping-pong on a moving train: how fast is the ball moving? The speed of the train or the speed of the ball? Even more amazing - Hawking, a scientist/mathmetician/whatever-he-wants-to-call-himself-is-fine-because-he's-freaking-brilliant - is FUNNY! Ok, not in a stand-up-comedian kind of way, but in that scientific-nerdy-smart kind of way. So instead of reading the 162 pages quickly, I pored over them, trying to understand concepts that I know are beyond me. I only got through about 60 pages - and had to stop reading right when I was getting to the good stuff (the black holes). In case you haven't noticed, I'm amazed that I could understand this book, and actually - for the first time in my life - start to 'get' how Einstein's theories work. I don't understand it anymore, and I can't explain the concepts of the book - but while I was reading it, it all made sense. I'm going to stop now, because the family geekness is shining through. I'll refrain from going into Star Trek memories as long as possible.

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