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

Allison Przylepa

Hawking's charmingly down-to-earth perspective is evident throughout his personal essays in the form of witty, irreverent anecdotes that add a twist of humor into what would have otherwise read as a bland, colorless monotone.Readers come to recognize Hawking not as the caricature of the brilliant, eccentric scientist he's been painted as in popular media, but as a man of modest and ordinary upbringing with a pragmatic world view and incredible resilience in the face of his incurable disease. Somewhere between the meat of the book and its discussions of the universe, our sympathies are gently and discreetly tugged upon; we learn that Hawking's wife was his raison d'être when he knew he may not survive to earn his PhD, and that the selfless charity of a man Hawking barely knew gave him his voice back.It's worth mentioning that I read Hawking's A Brief History of Time before reading this one. Even without having done so, I feel that the later chapters of Black Holes and Baby Universes comes off as, at times, redundant, and many of the theories expressed therein are far too complex and otherworldly for the average reader to comprehend. (Bosonic string theory, for example, only works if there are twenty six dimensions, some of them "curved up into a space of very small size, something like a million million million million millionth of an inch.")In the end, readers should find themselves riveted and touched by this book, from its opening chapter detailing Hawking's autobiography to the later discussions of theoretical physics.


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.

Artur Muschett

This book was about theoretical physics in general, and it elaborated on the way the universe is shaped, and functions. It gave me an insight to the spin particles,(particles that are marked by there spinning frequency with a little fraction) and it showed me where theoretical physics is heading in general. I learned a bit about entanglement, and how it could be used for the help of man kind. I liked this book because it was written well, and Stephen Hawkings mastery of the english language is clearly evident.


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!

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.


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.

Bob Nichols

You read this collection of essays and get what you can from them. Hawking himself knows (see the last essay, actually interview, at the end of the book) that there is much the reader will not understand. Hawking says that a universe that collapses onto itself is a "singularity of infinite density," but it's not clear what about it is "infinite." He says that time/space has no boundary or edge. We understand that point as a circle and Hawking uses the earth as an example (one can travel around the earth and back to a starting point). But that stimulates the next question, which is what is beyond the circle? While we know some sort of space lies beyond the earth, is there nothing beyond space and time and, if so, what or how does one understand "nothing"? Hawking summarizes nicely the four forces in the order of strength, but it's hard not to wonder whether the gravitational force, the weakest of the four, actually is the primary one. Hawking says that matter in the beginning was created out of energy by borrowing from the gravitational energy of the universe (and that this energy was necessary to counter the effects of gravity, the matter tucked tightly in a pre-Big Bang scenario). Even with a glimmer of understanding, that's heady stuff. Hawking says that a collapsed star that forms a black hole is a reverse version of the Big Bang process. Matter attracts to a singularity, which seems to be some sort of ultimate gravity, not because some mysterious center point pulls matter to itself, but because matter attracts matter and the only result is a pull to some center point. There, does matter become so dense (infinite?) that it creates the explosive power ("Infinite" matter converts to energy?) necessary to create a Big Bang scenario? Do black holes explode in the same way, thereby helping to perpetuate the cyclic nature of the universe? If matter and energy are equivalent (Hawking doesn't describe how speed of light fits into Einstein's formula) and if gravity is matter attracted to itself, what creates the attraction and how does this relate to energy? Understandably, these speculative questions, more fun than frustrating, may make a professional physicist wince. In one essay Hawking attempts to bridge physical laws and human behavior. He says the fundamental laws of science cannot be used to deduce human behavior. Yet, it's fair to wonder. Are not the four forces termed "interaction" (which includes gravity that, while often talked about as an attractive force, involves a critical distance where another mass resists being attracted). Are not humans matter and are not human relationships with each other and the world characterized by attraction and resistance? In the free will arena, Hawking seems to say that while physical laws predetermine, it is too complex to deduce whether and how humans are predetermined and, therefore, he seems to conclude that humans have some sort of free will. We know humans have a degree of choice, save for situations like genetic disease and death that make choices for us (though we try with religion and medicine). Hawking is silent on why we choose the way we do. On what basis is choice made? Does survival and well-being have a lot to do with such choices and isn't this science based? In Epicurean fashion, we seek whatever we are attracted to (need) and we resist what we are not attracted to (don't need). Is this similarity with the physical laws of the universe a coincidence?Hawking makes a revealing, throw away, comment about Feynman resigning from the Academy of Sciences because "he hated pomp and humbug" and the Academy scientists were too preoccupied with who should be admitted to the Academy. Maybe that aside reveals that the best minds rest on animal-biological needs(survival and rank behavior related to survival) which, it is interesting to speculate, may tie into how matter relates to matter (we seek objects from the world to live; we resist threats to our life). On the whole, this is a terrific book.

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.

Bart Breen

Fascinating and StimulatingLike others who have reviewed this work, I can endorse it as a stimulating and thoughtful book. It is in essence however not a coherent book with a single theme. It is a compilation of articles and as such there is much in the book that is repetitive. Hawking acknowledges this and disclaims it at the outset. Even with the forewarning I found that element to be a tad annoying.I listened to the audio version of the book while commuting and I found it overall to be a fascinating read. The biographical material about Hawking helped to put a "person" to the personality. Hawking is, without doubt, brilliant. His ability to reduce difficult concepts to listener sound bites speaks to that brilliance. I came away with an appreciation for his brilliance and abilities as well as the field of cosmological science that I did not have before.Of particular note, I found Hawking's treatment of metaphysics to be interesting but ultimately no more valuable than anyone else's opinions in that area. Physics will never answer the question of why the universe exists or whether God in fact exists and created this universe. Science can only answer how the universe works and what laws govern its behavior. Hawkings admits this himself so I took no offense to his words, I just found it interesting that his position did not make his insights in that regard any more valuable.The final segment of transcript from a radio show read by the narrator struck me a an opportunity missed to allow Hawking to finish with his own voice and presence. I was disappointed they did not use the original sound feed and chose to read the transcript.Well worth the read or the listen. Entertaining. Already dated though and perhaps his more recent works would be of more value to most listeners.

Clare Bear

I love that Stephen Hawking as a writer is not arrogant so as to propogate the theory of evolution or godless existence. In fact, he frequently uses the word creation, with a certain reverence.I also love that he has taken astro physics, a subject which potentially an elitist minority group of humans on this planet might grasp, and made it the rightful business of all humans by describing it so simply.


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 . . .


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.

Larry Cunningham

I had previously read A Brief History of Time and enjoyed that book thoroughly. I also enjoyed this follow-up, though it felt a bit disconnected and wandering at times compared to Hawking's first work for the mass market. The author, whose intellectual abilities place him in a realm I could never hope to understand, has a knack for clearly explaining impossibly complex concepts.


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

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