Title: Brief Answers to the Big Questions
Author: Stephen Hawking
Book Length (Audiobook): 4 hours 54 mins
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Science, Nonfiction, Philosophy, Physics
Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: (link to Goodreads above) “Stephen Hawking was the most renowned scientist since Einstein, known both for his groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and for his mischievous sense of humor. He educated millions of readers about the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes, and inspired millions more by defying a terrifying early prognosis of ALS, which originally gave him only two years to live. In later life he could communicate only by using a few facial muscles, but he continued to advance his field and serve as a revered voice on social and humanitarian issues.
Hawking not only unraveled some of the universe’s greatest mysteries but also believed science plays a critical role in fixing problems here on Earth. Now, as we face immense challenges on our planet—including climate change, the threat of nuclear war, and the development of artificial intelligence—he turns his attention to the most urgent issues facing us. Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? These are just a few of the questions Hawking addresses in this wide-ranging, passionately argued final book from one of the greatest minds in history.
Featuring a foreword by Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking, an introduction by Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne, and an afterword from Hawking’s daughter, Lucy, Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a brilliant last message to the world.”
My Review: I have never read anything by Stephen Hawking before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I really liked this book, and I think that it is a must read for 2019.
Hawking doesn’t only focus on the science, but the book is also interspersed with stories about his own life, which gives a nice personal touch to the theory / science part of it. I also liked how Hawking explained his complicated theories / scientific principles in such a way, that even a lay person like me can understand them.
The first question Hawking discusses is whether the universe had a beginning –was there a God? Hawking says no, and apparently he got a lot of flack in the media for it at the time.
Hawking states that “the universe is a machine governed by principles or laws. Laws that can be understood by the human mind.” He goes on to say that “the discovery of these laws has been human kinds greatest achievement. For it’s these laws of nature, as we now call them, that will tell us whether we need a God to explain the universe at all. The laws of nature are a description of how things actually work in the past, present, and future.” He goes on to say that, “if you accept, as I do, that the laws of nature are fixed, then it doesn’t take long to ask, ‘what role is there for God?'”
The other question that I really liked in the book was Question #3: Is there intelligent life out there in the universe? I understood his answer to mean that while there is the possibility to find other forms of life, it was not likely to find other forms of intelligent life. Intelligence is just a random development of evolution, and is therefore really rare. He also went on to say, that in any event we wouldn’t want to meet any aliens right now because “meeting a more advanced civilization at our present stage might be a bit like the original inhabitants of America meeting Columbus. And I don’t think that they thought they were better off for it.” In other words, if aliens ever did come to earth, it would be like the movie Independence Day — at least until we become a bit more advanced.
Although I grew up on watching the X-files, Hawking does not believe that aliens have visited us yet. Since he is (was) one of the smartest people on Earth, I would tend to believe him.
The Audiobook Recording: The audiobook recording is interesting for a variety of reasons. First, for some reason, I never realized that Hawking was from the UK (I always thought he was American…ooops). So when the reader of the book had a British accent, I thought it was weird, until I learned from the book that in fact Hawking himself was British. Second, in between each chapter there are snippets of an interview Hawking gave, and you can hear him answering the questions in his own voice. This was really great.