The Grand Design

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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 for a benevolent creator who set things in motion? Or does science offer another explanation? In "The Grand Design", the most recent scientific thinking about the mysteries of the universe is presented, in language marked by both brilliance and simplicity. "The Grand Design" explains the latest thoughts about model-dependent realism (the idea that there is no one version of reality), and about the multiverse concept of reality in which there are many universes. There are new ideas about the top-down theory of cosmology (the idea that there is no one history of the universe, but that every possible history exists). It concludes with a riveting assessment of m-theory, and discusses whether it is the unified theory Einstein spent a lifetime searching for. This is the first major work in nearly a decade by one of the world's greatest thinkers. A succinct, startling and lavishly illustrated guide to discoveries that are altering our understanding and threatening some of our most cherished belief systems, "The Grand Design" is a book that will inform - and provoke - like no other.

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Stephen Hawking on The Grand Design

How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? Over twenty years ago I wrote A Brief History of Time, to try to explain where the universe came from, and where it is going. But that book left some important questions unanswered. Why is there a universe--why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?

It was Einstein’s dream to discover the grand design of the universe, a single theory that explains everything. However, physicists in Einstein’s day hadn’t made enough progress in understanding the forces of nature for that to be a realistic goal. And by the time I had begun writing A Brief History of Time, there were still several key advances that had not yet been made that would prevent us from fulfilling Einstein’s dream. But in recent years the development of M-theory, the top-down approach to cosmology, and new observations such as those made by satellites like NASA’s COBE and WMAP, have brought us closer than ever to that single theory, and to being able to answer those deepest of questions. And so Leonard Mlodinow and I set out to write a sequel to A Brief History of Time to attempt to answer the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. The result is The Grand Design, the product of our four-year effort.

In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a "model-dependent" theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why 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. And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete "theory of everything." As we promise in our opening chapter, unlike the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life given in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer we provide in The Grand Design is not, simply, "42."

(Photo © Philip Waterson, LBIPP, LRPS)

About the Author:

STEPHEN HAWKING held the post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, the chair held by Isaac Newton in 1663, for thirty years. Professor Hawking is now Director of Research for the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at the University of Cambridge. He has over a dozen honorary degrees, and was awarded the Companion of Honour in 1989. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and a member of the US Natonal Academy of Science. His books include the bestselling A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell and A Briefer History of Time. Stephen Hawking is regarded as one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists since Einstein. He lives in Cambridge. Physicist LEONARD MLODINOW has taught at Cal Tech, written for Star Trek: The Next Generation, and is the author of Euclid's Window, Feynman's Rainbow and Some Time with Feynman.

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