Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Grand Design - A Mini Review

Not quite news, but the book is new and caused a bit of a stir in the news recently (and a measured review)...

Through pure chance, last week I received a voucher for a free book (or two) for Amazon's audio book arm, Audible. A good chance then to have a look - or rather a listen. Especially since the book is not available in e-book format (which is a shame).

Four and a half hours later (a surprisingly pleasant experience it was, too), and a few days to digest the impressions, here's what it boils down to: meh...

The review I mentioned above is right: Dr Hawking doesn't quite manage to explain where we came from. True, he does a wonderful job of a review of various forms of knowledge throughout history. He also does a decent job of explaining the M-theory. But overall, I'd say there's not really much to it all. Could have done better.

So, should you read this book?

Unlike the previous grand work of Hawking, A Brief History Of Time, this one is much more readable and stands a good chance that a lot of people not very familiar with modern physics (or any other physics for that matter) will be able to follow it and come out the other and better off. Even if you consider yourself an old hand in science (and even if only as an amateur pundit) you may enjoy the books light overview of relevant topics from ancient Egypt, China, and Greece to this day.

However, this latter group will be left wanting. So will be the former, but they're unlikely to notice (no offence here, please). Will anyone come out convinced we don't need god(s) to explain the Universe? Unlikely, and not just because people are rarely - if ever - convinced to change their mind either way regardless of the arguments being presented.

But in summary, if you do have the time, money, and/or the inclination, do read the book. It is an enjoyable experience whichever way you look at it. Just don't expect fireworks...