Saturday, September 27, 2014

Book Review 335: The Grand Design

THE GRAND DESIGN, by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodindow. 198 pages, illustrated. Bantam, $28

Stephen Hawking’s books are fun to read, and they make everything -- or at least a great deal -- sound simple. The biggest picture of all is contained in less than 200 pages.

But then, replete, you set the book down and ask, what about antimatter? Where’s that? In the glossary but not in the text. If the Grand Design comprehends antimatter (my understanding is it does not), somebody forgot to put it in.

Alternatively, the Theory of Everything is not as near at hand as Hawking thinks. Predicting the End of Physics is sort of like predicting the Second Coming. Lots of people do it, but it keeps receding into the future.

Worth reading for the clearest explication of the weak and strong anthropic principles that I have seen. Also rather good at knocking down the naive materialists, among whom I count myself still, nevertheless. 

By naive materialist, I mean that I give priority to matter/energy over mathematics. I do not think that mathematics calls matter/energy into existence, which seems to be the (usually) unspoken position of the theorists.



  1. If math can in fact describe the universe perfectly, then it would seem fairly likely that in fact the universe is "probably" the result of math.
    While this may seem unlikely from the point of view of living in the universe, it fits nicely into the theory that the universe we perceive is actually a simulation.

    If we were to simulate a universe on a computer it would in fact be the result of math.

    However the fact that we can not quite fully describe the universe means maybe we are something different. Thank goodness for anti mater then...

  2. Some people are bemused by the fact that math developed at one time turns out at a later time to describe aspects of nature that had not been known or understood. It seems that math is prior to substance.

    But there are many more math theorems that are valid math but (so far anyway) do not map to anything 'real.' That is why math is called the queen of the sciences, not the king.