Book Review: A Brief History of Time
Today, I am writing a book review on a topic that has fascinated me since my college days. I started loving sciences in high school (biology and Physics, not Chemistry yuck!) and decided to take an Astronomy 101 class my first year of college. I bought the textbook and immediately was drawn to the beautiful images captured by the Hubble Telescope. On the first day of class, I will never forget what my professor told me. He stood on one end of the classroom and asked, “If I am the sun, where is the nearest star in terms of relative distance?” We all had suggestions and no one seemed to get close to the answer he had. Then he said something that forever changed my outlook of the world and universe we live in. He said, “If I am the sun, and you are the Earth, the nearest star to the sun would be in Chicago.” Wow! That image solidified my fascination with Astronomy and our role as humans on this tiny planet we call Earth.
I tried taking more Astronomy classes in UC Berkeley (where I went to school. It’s a great school. I seriously don’t know how I got in), but couldn’t because of schedule conflicts. Thus, my learning of the space world was reserved in random Google searches. Then around 2011-2012, I began getting what I can only call were “visions” about space-time and physics. I concluded the measurement of time was a man-made concept and we left it at that. How did that feel? Scary. The closest thing I could tell you was the scene from “A Beautiful Mind” when the protagonist was fiercely scribbling formulas and screaming. It was kind of like that. I told my parents and they said I was crazy so we all called it a “youthful exuberance” and moved on.
Then last year on a trip to Oxford University in UK, I began getting those visions again. It was not a coincidence that Stephen Hawking teaches there. Questions like, “Why don’t planet and stars sink?” “Do comets revolve around a star or a heavenly body?” and I had all these theories, but no one who would listen. I didn’t let it deter me and kept researching the topic on my own. It wasn’t until I read “A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking that I realized that my theories could have some merit. I am hoping with the traction this blog has made so far, we can start a dialogue about my theories.
Let me warn you “A Brief History of Time” is not an easy read. It was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and it boggles my mind how many “normal” people could have read this and understood it enough for it to be placed on the coveted list. However, if you have some basic Physics and Astronomy knowledge like me, this book would be an absolutely fantastic read. In this book, Hawking explores profound questions such as “How did the Universe begin?”, “What is time and how does time flow?”, “Is the universe expanding or shrinking?” and other questions that plagued the minds of early scholars such as Galileo and Newton.
He starts the book with earlier theories by scientists and what he thinks about them. Then he weaves his own theories and provides evidence that support his conjectures. It is not difficult to see that a great mind like Stephen Hawking is also grappling with the same question as the rest of the world, “Why do we exist?” It is purely my opinion that Mr. Hawking is an Agnostic and is trying to figure out the workings or laws of the universe without the God factor. That’s where I come in. I feel you cannot have science without the God factor. How? Read on.
Quantum Mechanics is in the simplest form is the study of energy. No one has yet to describe how energy works or moves (Some say in a straight line others say it depends on whether there is a physical body changing its path). That’s where I feel spirituality wins where Science fails. God is the energy we are trying to figure out and he works in mysterious ways. Will we ever find out how energy works? Time will tell. All I know is that the One of Einstein’s law of universe states that everything is in constant movement. How does it move? What are the forces behind it? In my opinion, it is God. But, what do we scientifically call it? There is no answer to that yet since there is such a dichotomy between the two subjects. It is time that scientist begin to see spirituality as explaining things that science cannot yet.
Then comes my next question. The study of stars and planets has been of the ages yet no one has come up with a universal law or formula that explains how everything moves- not even Einstein. Does that mean there is no one universal force? Are there many working together? Well the following is my answer:
I think there is one universal force working all the time from the Big Bang to the expansion or shrinking of the universe today. What is that force? Magnetism! I believe that the universe at an infinitely dense period of time known as the “The Big Bang” had charged particles that blew up and started expanding into great distances. How the galaxies collide or move away is all work of magnetism and charged particles. Now, is the universe going to expand forever or is it shrinking. Hawking provides us with three scenarios in the book. A) It expands so fast that it will do so forever B) It is shrinking and will re-collapse C) it is expanding just fast enough to avoid re-collapse (in other words, there will be a time it will stop expanding).
It is my firm belief that the universe was expanding and shrinking at the same time. Think of the universe as a balloon. Draw a black dot on it. The Big Bang is when you blow air in the balloon and the dot moves away from the starting point. Then you will notice that the black dot is going over the curvature and slowly coming back to the starting point of the Big Bang. The balloon is not durable so we will not know it with this experiment, but it will show the eventual future of the universe- all the galaxies (mere dots) will move along the curvature to the starting point where we will have another Big Bang and another birth of another universe. Wow!
Well, those were just some of the million thoughts I had while reading this book. If you look at my copy, it is filled with scribbles and notes. I would love to get comments on this piece about what my readers think. I hope you take time to read this book. Happy Reading!