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When and how did the universe begin? Why are we here? What is the nature of reality? Is the apparent “grand design” of our universe evidence of a benevolent creator who set things in motion—or does science offer another explanation? In this startling and lavishly illustrated book, Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow present the most recent scientific thinking about these and other abiding mysteries of the universe, in nontechnical language marked by brilliance and simplicity.
According to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence or history. The authors explain that we ourselves are the product of quantum fluctuations in the early universe, and show how quantum theory predicts the “multiverse”—the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. They conclude with a riveting assessment of M-theory, an explanation of the laws governing our universe that is currently the only viable candidate for a “theory of everything”: the unified theory that Einstein was looking for, which, if confirmed, would represent the ultimate triumph of human reason.
The three central questions of philosophy and science: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other? No one can make a discussion of such matters as compulsively readable as the celebrated University of Cambridge cosmologist Hawking (A Brief History of Time). Along with Caltech physicist Mlodinow (The Drunkard's Walk), Hawking deftly mixes cutting-edge physics to answer those key questions. For instance, why do we exist? Earth occupies a "Goldilocks Zone" in space: just the perfect distance from a not-too-hot star, with just the right elements to allow life to evolve. On a larger scale, in order to explain the universe, the authors write, "we need to know not only how the universe behaves, but why." While no single theory exists yet, scientists are approaching that goal with what is called "M-theory," a collection of overlapping theories (including string theory) that fill in many (but not all) the blank spots in quantum physics; this collection is known as the "Grand Unified Field Theories." This may all finally explain the mystery of the universe's creation without recourse to a divine creator. This is an amazingly concise, clear, and intriguing overview of where we stand when it comes to divining the secrets of the universe. 41 color illus. throughout, 7 b&w cartoons.