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Not God

David Lindley, 30 January 1992

Stephen HawkingA Life in Science 
by Michael White and John Gribbin.
Viking, 304 pp., £16.99, January 1992, 0 670 84013 0
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... Stephen Hawking is now 50 years old, and has lived 25 years longer than he once expected to live. As a scientist he long ago earned the respect of his colleagues; more recently, with the astonishing success of his book A Brief History of Time, he has become a widely recognised public figure. Immobile for decades, he is now unable to communicate except by means of an electronic voice-synthesiser connected to a word-processor ...

Big Bang to Big Crunch

John Leslie, 1 August 1996

The Nature of Space and Time 
by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose.
Princeton, 141 pp., £16.95, May 1996, 0 691 03791 4
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... The Nature of Space and Time contains six lectures-three by Stephen Hawking, three by Roger Penrose – and a closing Hawking-Penrose debate. As Penrose indicates, it might be viewed as continuing the famous Bohr-Einstein exchange of some seventy years ago. Against the background of new cosmological theories, Hawking defends Bohr’s thesis that quantum theory has no radical incompleteness ...

The Absolute Now

John Leslie, 12 May 1994

The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory 
by David Bohm, translated by Basil Hiley.
Routledge, 397 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 415 06588 7
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Black Holes and Baby Universes, and Other Essays 
by Stephen Hawking.
Bantam, 182 pp., £16.99, October 1993, 0 593 03400 7
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... of work. After the enormous press coverage of A Brief History of Time, all the world knows that Stephen Hawking has motor neurone disease, can speak only with a computer-synthesised voice controlled by the few fingers that he can move, and fills the same Cambridge chair as Newton did. The 14 essays of the new book, together with a Christmas Day radio ...


David Kaiser: Aliens, 8 July 2010

... rarely calls to talk about my research. In April, however, she rang to ask: ‘Do you agree with Stephen Hawking?’ That’s usually an easy question to field. On topics ranging from the behaviour of black holes to the structure of the early universe, a safe answer is yes. But that wasn’t what my mother wanted to know. She wanted to know whether I ...

Small Special Points

Rosemary Hill: Darwin and the Europeans, 23 May 2019

Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Vol. 26, 1878 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt, James Secord and the editors of the Darwin Correspondence Project.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £94.99, October 2018, 978 1 108 47540 2
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... root & flourish in [his] own time’. More than that, he was liked. Among scientists perhaps only Stephen Hawking has given his admirers such a strong feeling that they knew him personally. Strangers wrote with random queries, such as why do pigeons fly in circles, and anecdotes of animal behaviour: R.M. Middleton of West Hartlepool explained how he had ...

Miracles Aren’t Enough

George Ellis: The mathematical universe, 26 January 2006

The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe 
by Roger Penrose.
Vintage, 1099 pp., £15, February 2006, 0 09 944068 7
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... don’t demand that a theory correspond to reality because I don’t know what reality is,’ Stephen Hawking says), but Penrose believes that such matters are crucial to quantum mechanics and are far from being settled. He explains why standard approaches fail to solve the problem, and proposes instead that quantum measurement processes are ...


Sheila Hale: Dysphasia, 5 March 1998

... he cannot easily write them. They are certain he would be able to communicate via a computer, as Stephen Hawking does, and refuse to accept that there is an invisible difference between John and Hawking, which is that Hawking, physically disabled though he is by neurological ...

Twins in Space

Mark Harris, 11 December 1997

Albert Einstein 
by Albrecht Fölsing, translated by Ewald Osers.
Viking, 882 pp., £25, August 1997, 0 670 85545 6
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Einstein: A Life 
by Denis Brian.
Wiley, 509 pp., £11.99, October 1997, 0 471 19362 3
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... was immediately catapulted to international (and unwelcome) fame. In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking claims that later examination of the eclipse results has revealed that the agreement between experiment and theory had been entirely fortuitous, since the margin of experimental error was actually as large as Einstein’s predicted angle of ...

Fine-Tuned for Life

John Leslie: Cosmology, 1 January 1998

Before the Beginning 
by Martin Rees.
Simon and Schuster, 288 pp., £7.99, January 1998, 0 684 81660 1
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The Life of the Cosmos 
by Lee Smolin.
Weidenfeld, 358 pp., £20, September 1997, 0 297 81727 2
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... These might nowadays be ending their ‘black hole evaporation’ (a process discovered by Stephen Hawking) in bangs detectable from two million light years away. Bigger black holes, their evaporation too slow to be detected, probably litter our galaxy in large numbers as the remnants of stellar explosions. Other such remnants are neutron ...

Turtles All the Way Down

Walter Gratzer, 4 September 1997

The End of Science 
by John Horgan.
Little, Brown, 324 pp., £18.99, May 1997, 0 316 64052 2
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... scientists are numbered many of the best-known figures (and popularisers) of our day, such as Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg and Roger Penrose, not to mention all the proponents of superstring theory. But Horgan has also found some more fitting targets for his scorn. The expansion of science, the increasingly brutish struggle for survival that ...

What might they want?

Jenny Diski: UFOs, 17 November 2011

The Myth and Mystery of UFOs 
by Thomas Bullard.
Kansas, 417 pp., £31.95, October 2010, 978 0 7006 1729 6
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... existence in this cosy, uninvaded corner of the universe. In fact, they had discovered pulsars. Stephen Hawking agrees: ‘If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.’ When the truth seems to be out there, our best bet for surviving would appear to be not to ...

His Father The Engineer

Ian Hacking, 28 May 1992

Understanding the present: Science and the Soul of Modern Man 
by Bryan Appleyard.
Picador, 272 pp., £14.95, May 1992, 0 330 32012 2
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... activity, and hence to make it more humane. The villains of the book are Bertrand Russell and Stephen Hawking. Russell is presented as an ‘iniquitous’ apologist for science (why does that man still bring the word ‘iniquity’ to so many lips? He can’t be all bad, if he continues to prompt that description). ...

Going Supernova

David Kaiser, 17 February 2011

Cycles of Time 
by Roger Penrose.
Bodley Head, 288 pp., £25, September 2010, 978 0 224 08036 1
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How Old Is the Universe? 
by David Weintraub.
Princeton, 370 pp., £20.95, 0 691 14731 0
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... holes. But even black holes, it turns out, are not foolproof containers. Penrose’s colleague Stephen Hawking demonstrated 35 years ago that black holes should radiate, slowly but surely emitting energy in the form of low-energy light. (This ‘Hawking radiation’ is compatible with Penrose’s earlier proofs ...

Somewhat Divine

Simon Schaffer: Isaac Newton, 16 November 2000

Isaac Newton: The ‘Principia’ Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy 
translated by I. Bernard Cohen.
California, 974 pp., £22, September 1999, 0 520 08817 4
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... has not, attributing the latter to some psychological defect in the great man’s make-up. Thus Stephen Hawking added to his Brief History of Time a short appendix on what he calls Newton’s ‘deviousness and vitriol’. Hawking claims, oddly, that Kepler discovered his planetary laws by observation alone, that ...

Muldoon – A Mystery

Michael Hofmann, 20 December 1990

Madoc – A Mystery 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 261 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 571 14489 6
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... consists of two unequal chronological sequences: the philosophers in the titles go from Thales to Stephen Hawking, while the poems below cover the ground from 1795 to 1834, Pantisocracy, Madoc and the Welsh Indians, early pioneers, Lewis and Clark, stray Irishmen, the Satanic School of Byron and Moore. The two disciplines are pretty arbitrarily related ...

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