“The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow (Bantam, 2010)

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As a reader, reviewer, and writer, I often wonder how word of mouth and rumor and the great press machine get rolling.  Take The Grand Design for example: Stephen Hawking has been wowing the world since A Brief History of Time, and with the publication of his latest book approaching, commentaries and thoughts began to spread on how this book would challenge the fundamental juxtaposition of science vs. religion once and for all.  After reading the under-200-page book of theories, discussions, photos and diagrams, my conclusion on The Grand Design is that for the most part it reads like a short college textbook on particle physics and the universe.  Nothing necessarily revolutionary or shocking in its thoughts and ideas that couldn’t be found in a number of other science books; perhaps the key is the important author name on the cover?

While The Grand Design isn’t the explosive book word of mouth has made it up to be (however it has sold considerably well) – akin to Colin Tudge’s The Link: Uncovering Our Earliest Ancestor which was supposed to revolutionize the field of archaeology – it does nevertheless possess some interesting and at times fascinating theories and discussions of why things are the way they are.  For the last couple of decades physicists and astronomical scientists have been doing their day to day jobs, while in the back of their minds they have been hoping to stumble upon the unification theory, essentially – as Douglas Adams precisely put it – a theory of life, the universe and everything.  From a physics standpoint, it is the bringing together of gravity, Einstein’s relativity theory, and the theory of quantum mechanics which will help explain why everything is the way it is and how it got to being there.  In the Grand Design, Hawking, along with co-author Leonard Mlodinow, give readers a strong introduction on the universe, particle physics, quantum mechanics and gravitational forces, and the launch into M Theory – the theory of life, the universe and everything.  While they don’t have all the answers yet, and there’s still a lot of ground to cover, it seems that M Theory may in fact be that ideal that scientists have been searching for for so long.

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Originally written on October 6 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.