A Brief History of Time | Study Guide

Stephen Hawking

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A Brief History of Time | Foreword | Summary



Stephen Hawking opens his book with a brief reflection on the unanticipated success of the first edition of A Brief History of Time. Based on this, he goes on to state that the quest for understanding the universe and the place of human beings in it is a quest in common among more people than one might suspect. It is with this in mind that he has written a Foreword to explain that the following chapters include new speculations on physics since the first edition.


In the original edition of A Brief History of Time, American astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan noted that while children often ask these big questions, most adults satisfy such queries with religion, not science. In this 10th anniversary edition, Hawking takes a wider stance. After having stated that he, more than anyone else involved, did not expect the book to become a best-selling work with worldwide appeal, Hawking goes on to discuss the innate curiosity of all human beings about the mysteries of existence.

Hawking's Foreword outlines two main points of reference for scientists who are intent on examining the nature of existence and the laws that determine the behavior of matter, energy, time, and space. One is through the formulation of mathematically derived theories. Progress in this direction has been made by finding correspondences between them, such that a "complete unified theory" is indicated. The other is through direct measurements and observations. In this effort, the recently acquired ability to measure fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation leads us closer to determining whether or not the universe is a closed system that has no beginning or end.

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