The word time has many definitions, one of which is “the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole.” We use time every day in a multitude of ways and without it, society would cease to function. But is time really what we think it is? And how does it apply to our past, present and future? Mankind has been searching for an answer to question “why are we here?” Creationists will say that all things we have come to know are the result of divine power. Evolutionists take the side of science as facts are learned revealing yet another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is the origin of the universe. Whichever side you find yourself on, I think we can all agree that there are many questions about our universe that have yet to be answered in the form of God or science. Perhaps both are responsible or maybe science will one day provide all of the answers we seek. The late Stephen Hawking (1942-2018) addressed the issue of time in this New York Times and international bestseller that helps us to understand the development of time and how it relates to our very existence.
If you love the work of Carl Sagan, Neil DeGrasse Tyson and other brilliant minds, this book will undoubtedly deliver. Hawking was as brilliant as they come even. And even as a rare form of Lou Gehrig’s disease inflicted devastating changes on his body over the course of several decades, the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge continued to stay active in spite of the crippling condition. He will be remembered as one of history’s greatest minds. And evidence of that can be found within the pages of this book. He takes us back to science and physics classes, reminding us of many things we probably have forgotten. His focus however, is with the concept of time and how it relates to the origin of the galaxy in which earth exists and our existence as a species. But before he gets to the crux of the book, he gives us a recap of the lives of those before him who left their legacy on society. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) and Isaac Newton (1643-1727) are just some of the names cemented in our minds as pioneers in the field of science. To understand Hawking, it is first necessary to revisit the path society took to obtain the level of knowledge that we currently possess about our planet and those in the solar system. As he moves closer to his era, the story heats up and when we arrive the concept of the black hole, the book pulls the reader in does not let go.
Hawking’s words are deep and the sections about the black hole, time arrow and time travel are sure to make readers question things that they thought they knew well. The topics are complex in their entirety but Hawking does a great job and presenting them so that a layman can follow along. There are some parts which might require a re-read before the reader can move on, confident of having retained the material. Spins, half-spins, positive charges, negative charges,entropy and anti-particles are just a sample of the concepts that readers of this book will need to understand. At first it can seem like another language, especially to those with little or no scientific background. Those who have always loved science and excelled in it will find these topics familiar. The mystery of the black hole is also demystified with a clear-cut analysis of why black holes exist and how they affect our galaxy, one of millions in the solar system. The wormhole and supernova are also explored as well as the concept of interstellar travel. I found the material fairly easy to follow but I am sure that the full explanation is far more intricate and probably more than my mind would want to handle. But for the purposes of the book, the author succeeded in driving home his points.
As he moves on to the time arrow, it is here that he ties everything together so that we may see how the three concepts of times we have are related and necessary for the survival and/or existence of the galaxy and our planet. The facts about the expansion of the universe is one of the best parts of the book and cause me to re-think the origin of the earth and the future of the solar system. Beautifully, Hawking’s work will live on forever and future astrophysicists and scientist will make more discoveries that will either confirm his theories or provide sounds reasons against them. Whichever way things go, the end goal is finally answer questions whose answers have continued to elude us. And I believe that would make Hawking proud as he first and foremost was devoted to science. This is a great read and when you have finished the book, you will have a better understanding of the history of time.
“My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” – Stephen Hawking