A Brief History of Time | Study Guide

Stephen Hawking

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A Brief History of Time | Chapter 12 : Conclusion | Summary

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Summary

Stephen Hawking's conclusion to A Brief History of Time reviews the main points of the book regarding both quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity. He points out that he has given special attention to gravitational laws because "it is gravity that shapes the large-scale structure of the universe." In many ways, this chapter bookends Hawking's Foreword by returning to the ongoing quest to answer not only what constitutes the existence of our own being but also why we exist. It is a constant of human nature to devise ways and means to make sense of what we experience. He reviews the twofold method of investigation—observation and speculation—that continues to support efforts to find the underlying set of laws governing the universe and everything in it.

Analysis

It is interesting that Stephen Hawking points out that the model of tortoises keeping Earth in its place in space is not a very good one, but it does have one significant feature in common with the most recent concepts of string theory: "both theories lack observational evidence: no one has ever seen a giant tortoise with the earth on its back, but then, no one has seen a superstring either."

In placing these two models side by side, Hawing implies an attitude of humility faced with the enormity of the attempt to give significance to the order (and disorder) of all that exists. As he points out, physicists are hard at work on the what of the universe, but it will take other thinkers in the fields of philosophy (who were at one time involved in the search before science and philosophy diverged) to bring about an understanding of why.

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