Black Holes and Baby Universes

ISBN: 0553374117
ISBN 13: 9780553374117
By: Stephen Hawking

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About this book

NY Times bestseller. 13 extraordinary eesays shed new light on the mysteries of the universe & on one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time.In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe. Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.

Reader's Thoughts


It was surprisingly easy to read! I only read this book because it was the best thing sitting on my bookshelf at the time. I found it very interesting for most of it, but being that I get a little bored in science (even science fiction) I can't say that I loved it. However, if you're a fan of science and physics, then I'm sure this book will be in in your top 50.

Clint Wells

This book had many overlapping themes from A Brief History of Time but it was still very insightful. Hawking's most confusing theories deal with imaginary time and the idea that the laws of physics still existed before the big bang. Seriously could not understand that stuff. But everything else is super easy to follow. Great read.


I've liked another Hawking book better (I think I've read The Theory of Everything), but everyone who reads my reviews knows that I'm not a big fan of collections of essays from one author because I get sick of the repetition. I did like the inclusion of the Desert Island Discs interview. And I need to brush up on my physics. Can you believe I used to be able to participate in conversations about it? Now I just wonder about white holes . . .


A few days back, I got into an online debate with a random girl in a Facebook community. She had mentioned that this is the age of Science, and while Science is taking human life forward at an unimaginable pace, speculative Philosophers are just a hindrance to human progress. I replied with the speculation that a lot of what Science says could turn out to be wrong. This started a fierce discussion that went on for quite long, and I was barely able to defend the powerful arguments she kept throwing at me, until the community admin removed the post for "digression". The takeaway from that experience was this : if she is right, Science is very close to finding an answer to The Life, The Universe and Everything in It, and that it would not be 42.Stephen Hawking's "Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays" published by Bantam Books is a collection of essays and speeches by Stephen Hawking during different times in his career, and like a cherry on top, it includes his 1992 interview with BBC Radio. Like the girl I got into an argument with, Stephen Hawking believes that we are very close to solving the puzzle of the Universe. He sets the tone in the introduction itself, with the words"The scientific articles in this volume were written in the belief that the universe is governed by an order that we can perceive partially now and that we may understand fully in the not-too-distant future. It may be that this hope is just a mirage; there may be no ultimate theory, and even if there is, we may not be able to find it. But it is surely better to strive for a complete understanding than to despair of the human mind."In the first two essays, "Childhood" and "Oxford and Cambridge", Hawking tells us briefly about the first few years of his life, and he makes it out as unremarkable. One feature of Hawking's writing throughout the book is that he maintains a largely impersonal tone, with an occasional sense of humour. This aloof attitude of his writing is further highlighted in his third essay (which is actually a speech transcript) - "My Experience with ALS". This speech transcript describing Stephen Hawking's unfortunate medical condition and its effect on him should arguably be the most attractive piece in the collection, given our morbid curiosity over other people's lives. But Hawking uses an unemotional tone, and describes the events alone. He concludes this speech making an effort to give all his listeners hope with the words"I have had motor neurone disease for practically all my adult life. Yet it has not prevented me from having a very attractive family and being successful in my work. This is thanks to the help I have received from my wife, my children and a large number of other people and organizations. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly that is often the case. It shows that one need not lose hope."In the next two essays "Public Attitudes Towards Science" and "A Brief History of A Brief History", Hawking explains his belief that the public should be aware of the latest advancements in Science, and his own effort in making this possible by writing his most famous book - "A Brief History of Time". Hawking does not ignore the fact that though the book may be a best-seller, a lot of people use it to just adorn their bookshelves as a status symbol (The book lies untouched in my own bookshelf for about 7 years now. Note to self : Soon).Starting with the speech transcript "My Position", where he temporarily lets go his composure and indulges in a self-confessed harsh attack on Philosophers ("They are not in touch with the present frontier of Physics"), the next few essays get into real Physics. Though I couldn't understand the Physics part completely, I could get the broad ideas pretty well. This is largely due the fact that owing to their independent -by-themselves nature of the essays, Hawking gives a general idea of the same concepts multiple times throughout the collection.The final interview - "Desert Island Discs : An Interview" - is a delightful read. As a part of this very interesting show hosted at BBC Radio, the interviewer (Sue Lawley) manages to bring out different aspects to the very incidents that we encountered though Hawking's own words. For example, in answer to a question, Hawking explains the feeling of hopelessness on discovery of his medical condition better than he does in his own speech. A more musically inclined person than me would even take the chance to approve (or disapprove) of Hawking's taste in music. However my personal favorite in the whole collection is the essay titled "Is Everything Determined?", where armed with no emperical data to support him Hawking himself indulges in what he accuses the Philosophers of being guilty of - speculation. Touching over concepts of a pre-determined destiny, and the moral culpability of human actions in a pre-destined Universe, Hawking lets himself go (with an ironic sense of humour).On the whole, "Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays" is a very good read (at least for a scientifically non-inclined person like me). Hawking's writing is good and to the point, and his sense of mild humour ensures that all is not dull. Regardless of your agreement or disagreement (as in my case) with the statement from the book's Introduction I have quoted above, I would suggest that you go for this one.Note : This review and more of my writing can be found at my blog


After reading through his first book, I've had Hawking's book of essays on my coffee table for a few years now. Only recently, I found time to work my way through it. I found his essays pretty enlightening and the Hawking subtle humor is in full effect in some of his work. Surely, he seems a little sure of himself in his ideas, but I can't begrudge someone who is the de facto expert in his field. Although the majority of the essays deal with finding a grand unified theory of physics, the final essay which is a transcript of a radio interview that covers some of his private life as well as his career is worth the read.

Horia Bura

As it is a collection of essays based on speeches given at various conferences, interviews etc., the repetition of some themes and concepts is inevitable. However, Hawking uses the same accessible and, at times, humorous style as in his other works, but, on the other hand, he introduces some very interesting autobiographical segments that allow us to somewhat dive into his private life and understand how he relates to his family, readers and, not the least, his own illness.


one of my favourite books.Tentang blackholes, apakah lubang hitam itu. Lubang hitam adalah planet mati yang mampat dengan kerapatan serta gravitasi tinggi. Semua yang masuk ke dalam medan gravitasinya bisa tersedot kedasarnya, bahkan dia tidak memancarkan cahaya yang terserap, sehingga yang tampak adalah warna hitam. Sebab itu disebut blackhole. Gemintang di langit malam yang indah terlihat, bisa jadi pada saat kita pandang saat ini, adalah cahaya yang dipancarkan sekian juta tahun lalu, mengingat jaraknya adalah sekian juta tahun cahaya, dan pada saat kita pandang indah, bisa jadi bintang tersebut sudah mati. Semakin menambah kekaguman pada Sang Kuasa..... karena semua yang terdapat dalam Al Qur'an, mulai bisa terkuak oleh science. Subhanallah.....


An amazing book, introducing new theories to me as well as solidifying my knowledge on others. Really perked my interest in theoretical physics. A great read for anyone craving any deep thinking or hours puzzling over possible theories. Has truly changed how I think about things.


I don't really know How The Mind Works, I haven't read Pinker's masterpiece yet. I can imagine it, however, as a complex combination of neurons and cells firing in various areas of the brain to help you visualize an image of the thing you're thinking about .To speak for myself, I think in pictures. when I think about something or remember a person, I visualize a picture of him or her or something strongly associated with them. For example, when I see the word " Plato", I visualize Plato as represented in Raphael's School of Athens, pointing up to his world of ideas. The same thing holds for "Einstein": I see Einstein riding his bicycle trying to catch a beam of light. A moustache for Nietzsche; a teapot for Russell; a monkey for Darwin; a crazy particle for Heisenberg, and so forth .How about professor Hawking?? No, its neither a black hole, as you might have expected, nor a chair. I see a word--an English word written in capital bold letters. I see HOPE.Alongside all science that you get when you finish a book written by this great man, you learn something more important. Surely, I will not live long enough to see if the universe will end in a Big Crunch as it started in a Big Bang, or to verify if there is really a Theory of Everything, nor do I care if there were parallel universes. These things mean to me no more than what Greece mythology mean to any person in our days. What you really learn from Hawking's books is that one must not lose HOPE.

Vrinda Pendred

Interesting, certainly, but strangely, I found that while Hawking is a deeply emotional person with a wicked sense of humour...his science left me cold. I got the impression he separates his emotions from his work, which I find puzzling. I think, though, that the worst thing about this book is the interview transcript from his appearance on Desert Island Discs - not because of him, but because of the interviewer. She really knew how to rub salt into his wounds! I was honestly expecting her to ask him if he'd ever considered hanging himself. I don't know how she got away with it. It impressed me how graciously he responded to it. I found him hugely inspirational - but as I say, more on a personal level, than on a scientific one.

Kristopher Swinson

I picked this up as a diversion and hopeful cure for a case of insomnia, in which it was only moderately successful. Hawking seems modest enough, and certainly has a vibrant sense of humor. Indeed, his writing style is rather accessible--which made me all the more frustrated when, due to the repetitive nature from collecting these essays, I realized I still only understand quantum physics to a certain extent, even on the third reading. While he downplays the necessity of mathematical erudition (10, 35, etc.), supposedly not his actual strong suit, I obviously don't believe it's sufficient to analyze good metaphors--or parables--without sound comprehension of what lies in back of them. At least, I'm hoping that's why I can't always follow.Thankfully, some things I can follow, i.e., "If the solar system were composed of an equal mixture of particles and antiparticles, they would all annihilate each other and leave just radiation" (60). (Yeah, duh.) Still, I have to wonder whether it's gotten to his (and the entire scientific community's) head, particularly as one lecture pondered whether they could stumble upon the coveted unified theory within the next 20 years. He is somewhat ambivalent about God, and it's nerve-wracking to hear his honest belief that we are close to knowing the mind of God (37), thereby becoming "Masters of the Universe" (ix; see 5, 47). He's not usually too antagonistic in pointing out that science cannot answer why the universe was created (19, 91, 99, 172-173), and almost giving God the throne, even if pretending to largely know how He operates (98, 128, 137).If only he'd concede how much is sheer theory, as he often hints when stating that science is progressing to the point where earth's resources can't construct a sufficient device to test its postulates. In one place, he nearly states that constructs hard for him to imagine are not worth incorporation into theory (66); he enjoyed pointing out where Einstein overlooked something of cosmological importance. Why can't he also ever be mistaken? Orson Pratt stated in 1878, "Light, how slow! . . . Now, the Lord has powers beyond those with which we are acquainted" (Orson Pratt, JD, 19:294; see 21:258). At first, many could agree with speed greater than light. Then the theory of relativity prohibited such a notion. Now quantum mechanics allow the possibility again, something which Hawking relied upon in explaining escape velocity at the event horizon of black holes.He sets up another scenario, except what he calls "dark matter," I call "pure and refined" matter, even "light matter" or "the light of Christ":We can measure the speeds at which individual galaxies are moving in these clusters. We find they are so high that the clusters would fly apart unless they were held together by gravitational attraction. The mass required is considerably greater than the masses of all the galaxies. . . . It follows, therefore, that there must be extra dark matter present in clusters of galaxies outside the galaxies that we see. . . .What could the extra dark matter be that must be there if the theory of inflation is correct? It seems that it is probably different from normal matter, the kind that makes up stars and planets. (148, 151-152)There's excitement in, and allowance for, inquiry about the universe, but I get distrustful in men who jettison God or seem to think they know more than they do at this stage in the game. Edison freely admitted, "We don't know a millionth of one percent about anything."As for the phenomena above, while I can see why much in historical Christianity leads to Hawking's misrepresentation of their approach to science (86), I still contend that man cannot by searching find out God, that one learns more by gazing into heaven (as permitted by God's parting the veil, not just a glance at the night sky, necessarily) for five minutes than reading all the books ever written on the subject, and that in many respects the revelations really do still offer the most beautiful answers. (For instance, with respect to gravitational governance unaccounted for by current equations, I refer you to Abraham Facsimile 2, Figures 1 through 5, which overall is curiously circular, like the one eternal round which Hawking approaches in his method for real/imaginary time bending back into itself.)I take additional comfort in James E. Talmage's rational, albeit religious, explanation (LEJ, 21:440): "Astronomers admit that there may be many invisible worlds in space, of structure too fine and of matter too tenuous to be observed by our dull vision. These may be celestialized orbs, tenanted by celestial beings, perceptible only to celestialized senses."I'm sorry about my impatient rant, mainly irrelevant to reviewing the book at hand. This is cutting edge and nearly as entertaining as possible for the subject matter, but I don't swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

Mehar Banu

Amazing...... Stephen Hawking, the great mind brings extremely unimaginable concept on universe, not one universe but numerous universes... He lets our mind to conceive what an universe actually be... We can't imagine 4th dimension, however we try .... but when we go along with brain stunning Stephen.. we can grasp whole universe in our mind. What a fantastic play of Allah in giving grace of knowledge to this great man, Stephen Hawking...even he is severely paralyzed and spending whole of his life on a wheel chair.


It has always fascinated me that theoretical physisist can actually examine and explore distant galaxies and solar systems and such without ever leaving our planet Earth so to speak. It seems they really can!This collection of essays presents several interesting issues:What is a black hole? Is it really so black?Is it possible to travel through time and space?Does the Universe have any boundaries?Did it all began with the Big bang?Why does it bother with existing at all?Will we ever find the theory of everything?What is going to happen when our Universe stops expanding?What makes human race so successful and unique?Why haven´t we been contacted by alien civilizations already?The author doesn´t give us exact answers, he just presents various possibilities and expresses his opinions. This book is completely accessible and comprehensible (with the exception of one or two overly technical essays) although I found my poor knowledge of high school chemistry and physics quite helpful sometimes. But I agree it´s NOT a book for light reading, you have to think a lot during reading. I also think you need great deal of imagination. It´s an excellent food for thought!

Justin Tapp

A long drive called for a good audio book. Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays by Stephen Hawking fit the bill. Hawking is the famous physicist who also has ALS.Hawking published this book in 1993, five years after he published his bestseller A Brief History of Time.I wanted to post this review as soon as I could while I could still remember and sort of understand the gist of what Hawking was saying. The first 1/4 of the book is autobiographical, him explaining his upbringing and love for cosmology. The rest are a compilation of essays and lectures he gave to various groups over two decades.Hawking's research has primarily been on black holes. Much of what we know/suspect about black holes can be attributed to him. I'm awed by the mathematical concepts that had to be invented to do the research that he and other physicists do. There's a point where mathematics becomes philosophical-- and that is the deep soul of physics and cosmology.His lectures always point to the quest for the grand unified theory of the universe (GUT). This is the one theory that will explain how everything in the universe works. As the years in the lectures progress, it becomes obvious to me that the GUT becomes a sort of deity, Hawking has said if we can know it we "can know the mind of God." It raises all sorts of philosophical questions about predestination and free will.Here's the main point I got from the book and Hawking's work: If the universe is unlimited in scope then the laws of physics were the same at its creation as they are now. The universe was not created nor can be destroyed--it just is.However, if the universe is actually limited in scope, then the laws of physics didn't apply at its creation as they do today. Some outside entity must be responsible for its creation.Hawking believes the former, and I'm betting on the latter.Hawking invented something called imaginary time. Kind of complex to attempt to explain here, essentially imaginary time is the sum of all possible points in time. Think about alternate realities, all the possible variations of possible histories. If you look at things through the lens of imaginary time (which is a heavy mathematical concept) then things like the Big Bang no longer become troublesome singularities where the laws of physics don't apply, but become like any other event in history.Interestingly, Hawking believed in 1992 that the GUT was only about 20 years away, and inhabiting other planets less than 100 years away. Looks like is probably wrong on those. Apparently, new research has led Hawking to change his mind on some of his beliefs, and published another book recently. I've read recently about a high-powered particle accelerator being built to test several theories in physics. One guy in Hawaii is actually suing to get the scientists to stop because he fears they will create a black hole here on earth. The work of that particle accelerator will have profound implications for all of science, however.This book reminded me that in talking about Biblical creation you have to start at the very beginning--when the universe was created. I think most Biblical creation apologists are biology-oriented and therefore don't have the mathematical understanding needed to develop a good Christian apologetic against theories like the ones Hawking purports. There are a few really good redeemed physicists out there, however.

mark monday

this surprisingly relaxed and enjoyable collection of essays by Hawking didn't make me feel one bit stupid. not one bit! and i am a real dolt when it comes to much of science in general and physics in particular. thank you Hawking for not talking down to me and presenting your rich, dense pie of ideas in a way that was perfectly palatable.there are a couple of pleasant, unpretentious essays on Hawking's personal life and history (noticeably absent in his prior bestseller) and his general thoughts on life - including some amusing comments on his computer voice's distinctly american accent. and there are some fun, bitchy barbs aimed at his own personal nemeses - "philosophers of science" (...failed physicists who found it too hard to invent new theories and so took to writing about the philosophy of physics instead. They are still arguing about the scientific theories of the early years of this century, like relativity and quantum mechanics. They are not in touch with the present frontier of physics.) perhaps that sounds harsh, particularly coming from a theoretical physicist. but apparently these dastardly Philosophers of Science have been hounding him for years, simply due to his own resistance to fitting his approach and ideas into a single, known school of thought (i.e. as nominalist or instumentalist or positivist or realist, etc... most of which have absolutely no meaning to me). go get 'em, Hawking!the above paragraph describes only a handful of the essays. the rest are almost entirely concerned with explaining black holes, baby universe, the 4 basic interactions (strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force, electromagnetism, and - the weakest of all - our old friend gravity); concepts such as "imaginary time"; the continued relevance of quantum mechanics; and especially Hawkings' pursuit of a "Grand Unified Theory". Hawkings' work (and this collection) is overtly driven by his desire to finally create this "theory of everything" - one that will at long last lay bare the inner workings of the universe, where we have been, where we are going, how it all connects and what it is all about. is there a greater goal for a theoretical physicist? i really don't know. but this drive really gave me the impression of Hawking being one of the world's Great Men, a man who contemplates the finite and the infinite on a casual basis and whose quest in life is not so much based in ego (although that is there) but in helping to raise humanity to the next level. whatever that level may might think that God has no place in all of this. well, one would be wrong. God seems to be very much on Hawking's mind. his quest is, in a way, a striving to understand 'the mind of God'. fascinating! here are some of his thoughts on this topic:"It is now generally accepted that the universe evolves according to well-defined laws. These laws may have been ordained by God, but it seems that He does not intervene in the universe to break the laws. Until recently, however, it was thought that these laws did not apply to the beginning of the universe. It would be up to God to wind up the clockwork and set the universe going in any way He wanted. Thus, the present state of the universe would be the result of God's choice of the initial conditions.The situation would be very different, however, if something like the no-boundary proposal were correct. In that case the laws of physics would hold even at the beginning of the universe, so God would not have had the freedom to choose the initial conditions. Of course, He would still have been free to choose the laws that the universe obeyed. However, this may not have been much of a choice. There may only be a small number of laws, which are self-consistent and which lead to complicated beings like ourselves who can ask the question: What is the nature of God?And if there is only one unique set of possible laws, it is only a set of equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to govern? is the ultimate unified theory so compelling that it brings about its own existence? Although science may solve the problem of how the universe began, it cannot answer the question: Why does the universe bother to exist?"rather strange to find this kind of discussion within a book concerned with theoretical physics. but Hawking makes it not so strange; if anything, his mind illustrates its own kind of Grand Unified Theory. he connects so many things, without ever rambling - on a personal level, on a theoretical level, on a purely scientific level. he writes eloquently and passionately about his thoughts on God, on determinism vs. free will, on various moments in history, on so much... and on his favorite records! what an awesome mind. what a man!he also answers this timeless question, posed by Sue from Desert Island Discs:Sue: What would happen if you fell into a black hole?Stephen: You get made into spaghetti.

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