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The Theory of Everything:
The Origin and Fate of the Universe
by Stephen W. Hawking
2002, New Millennium Press
167 pages, hardcover
Review by Jim Walker

This short book consists of a compilation of several lectures by Stephen Hawking. Many of the ideas from them appear in several of his past books. Hawking attempts to explain sophisticated and complex mathematical ideas in an unsophisticated, perhaps childlike (but charming) way. He briefly covers the history of ideas about the universe from Aristotle, Augustine, Newton, Einstein, Hubble, and Feynman. He then explains the Big Bang, black holes, and space-time and incorporates these thoughts into the search for a unified theory of everything. Although Hawking does not announce the arrival of the Theory of Everything, he does explain, in simple metaphors, the flavor of what such a theory would encompass.

One of the more important concepts of his involves the idea that the "beginning" of the universe does not necessarily imply a singularity (or in holistic terms, a oneness). If we wish to hold consistency with quantum mechanics (the most successful scientific theory to date) then a no-boundary condition would best describe the beginning. Needless to say, this contradicts many religious ideas about a creation (although he empathizes that these ideas represent only a proposal).

Hawking represents one of the most brilliant theoretical scientists of our time. He advocates the idea of communicating the ideas theoretical science in a way to make it understandable, in principle, to everyone, not just scientists. Hawking has an acute awareness of the religious impact of his theoretical studies and explains in a clear but inoffensive way that the universe does not conform to the common belief of an all powerful Creator.

A few quotes from the book:

An expanding universe does not preclude a creator, but it does place limits on when He might have carried out his job.

We now know that our galaxy is only one of some hundred thousand million that can be seen using modern telescopes, each galaxy itself containing some hundred thousand million stars.

This behavior of the universe [expanding universe] could have been predicted from Newton's theory of gravity at any time in the nineteenth, the eighteenth, or even the late seventeenth centuries. Yet so strong was the belief in a static universe that it persisted into the early twentieth century. Even when Einstein formulated the general theory of relativity in 1915, he was sure that the universe had to be static.

The present evidence, therefore, suggests that the universe will probably expand forever. But don't bank on it.

Black holes are one of only a fairly small number of cases in the history of science where a theory was developed in great detail as a mathematical model before there was any evidence from observations that it was correct.

Quantum mechanics allows the universe to have a beginning that is not a singularity. This means that the laws of physics need not break down at the origin of the universe.

In the case of the whole universe, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy of the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero.

One could say: "The boundary condition of the universe is that it has no boundary." The universe would be completely self-contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would be neither created nor destroyed. It would just be.

I should emphasize that this idea that time and space should be finite without boundary is just a proposal. It cannot be deduced from some other principle.

A scientific theory is just a mathematical model we make to describe our observations. It exists only in our minds. So it does not have any meaning to ask: Which is real, "real" or "imaginary" time? It is simply a matter of which is a more useful description.

If the universe is really completely self-contained, having no boundary or edge, it would be neither created nor destroyed. It would simply be. What place, then, for a creator?

If one liked, one could ascribe this randomness [quantum uncertainty] to the intervention of God. But it would be a very strange kind of intervention. There is no evidence that it is directed toward any purpose. Indeed, if it were, it wouldn't be random.

Our aim is to formulate a set of laws that will enable us to predict events up to the limit set by the uncertainty principle.

If the no boundary proposal is correct, He [God] had no freedom at all to choose initial conditions.

The people whose business it is to ask why-- the philosophers-- have not been able to keep up with the advance of scientific theories.


First Lecture
Second Lecture
Third Lecture
Fourth Lecture
Fifth Lecture
Sixth Lecture
Seventh Lecture

To obtain this book, click below:

The Theory of Everything: The Origin and Fate of the Universe

Other books by Stephen Hawking:

The Universe in a Nutshell (hardcover)

The Illustrated Brief History of Time (hardcover)

A Brief History of Time (paperback)