“Universe, Big Bang, Black Holes, and Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time (Bantam Dell, October 2005),” Dialogue by Franklin & Betty J. Parker, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; April 16, 2007, 63 Heritage Loop, Crossville, TN 38571.
Betty: First, we thank Uplands scientists Mark Heald, Hunter Elrod, and Dick Riesz for reading this review. Any errors are ours. We are not scientists, can not answer hard science questions, and time is too short for this big topic. Why, then, did we choose to review Stephen Hawking’s 2005 A Briefer History of Time?
Frank: We chose this book to try to understand what scientists have learned about the Universe; how it began; how life evolved; who and what we humans are; and if creation came about by chance or by Divine Will. We don’t think with scientific objectivity. Our attitudes, our values come from family, friends, national culture. A scientific perspective helps offset inevitable bias.
Betty: You’re saying that by reviewing this book, we can learn what scientists have found out about our Universe; how matter turned into stars, into galaxies of stars, into our present Universe.
Frank: Yes, let’s learn how our present Universe arose, how our Milky Way galaxy was formed, how one star became our Sun, how from our Sun came 8 planets, including Earth, which we share with plants, animals, other life forms. Let’s look at our past, present, future.
Betty: Those sound like good enough reasons for this review. Scientific terms we use we try to make clear in context. We also share insights from various other sources about the search for the origin of the Universe. Now a quick look at the British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who wrote this book with a collaborating American scientist.
Frank: British born Stephen Hawking (born Jan. 8, 1942), now age 65, is a mathematics professor at Cambridge University. He is often compared to Albert Einstein (1879-1955) in knowledge about the Universe. Hawking also has a debilitating nerve disorder, Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS, which has made him wheelchair-bound for over 40 years.
Betty: Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time updates and simplifies his best selling 1988 book. Many bought his 1988 book but few finished reading it because it is difficult.
Frank: Hawking’s major research is on Black Holes, so called because they are part of unseen dark matter comprising most of the Universe, 94% or more. The many stars you see at night are only 6% or less of what’s up there. The rest is invisible dark matter, including Black Holes, many formed at the instant our Universe was born. More about Black Holes later.
Betty: Hawking seeks, as Einstein sought but never found, one “Unified Theory” to explain the Universe and our place in it.
Frank: Hawking seeks this “Unified Theory” in the Big Bang and in Black Holes which came from the Big Bang.
Betty: The Big Bang theory holds that everything that now exists began in a gigantic, gaseous, probably silent eruption about 13.7 billion years ago when something infinitely tiny became our present infinitely large Universe. Mounting evidence has led most scientists to accept this Big Bang theory of the creation of the Universe.
Frank: Hawking ends both his 1988 and 2005 versions of A Briefer History of Time with the thought that to find this holy grail of Einstein’s Unified Theory may help us: “… know the mind of God.”1
Betty: This gigantic thought comes from a frail man. An interviewer for a British newspaper, Sept. 2005, sent Hawking advance questions. Hawking returned them and asked for shorter, more focused questions. Facing Hawking in his Cambridge University office, the interviewer saw that Hawking’s frailty required brevity.
Frank: Shriveled, voiceless, immobile in a wheel chair, able to lift only one finger to his computer, he can twitch only one muscle on his right cheek, which is targeted by an infrared beam. This beam allows him to sift through a specially prepared dictionary, then send his thoughts through his computer to his voice synthesizer, slowly, painfully. Yet he is upbeat, impish, playful, and surprisingly productive.
Betty: Asked if his 2005 book has enough new material to justify buying it, Hawking said over his voice synthesizer: My 1988 book aroused interest. But many found it difficult. I made the 2005 book easier and added new information about the Universe.
Frank: Interviewer: Are you worried that readers will think you’re just cashing in on your new book?
Betty: Hawking: I put a lot of effort into this 2005 book when I was critically ill with pneumonia. Scientists need to explain their work about the Universe because it answers questions often asked about religion, such as how we and the Universe came to be here.
Frank: With round-the-clock nursing care, Hawking actively holds the same named Cambridge University professorship once held by Sir Isaac Newton. Hawking is also helped by his selected bright Ph.D. students. Using his computerized voice synthesizer, he lectures at Cambridge, elsewhere, and overseas. He writes technical and popular books about the Universe and has a website containing his major papers.2
Betty: More about Hawking later. First, some history. Early civilizations marveled at the heavenly bodies and used their regular cycles to mark calendar days, months, seasons, years; to plant seeds, to gather crops, and to navigate ships.
Frank: Ancient Chinese (1300s Before the Common Era), ancient Babylonians (700 BCE) charted the positions of the stars and recorded eclipses of the Sun. Ancient Egyptians aligned their temples and pyramids with heavenly bodies. Stonehenge in southern England was positioned in line with the Sun and the Moon.3
Betty: Greek philosophers Pythagoras (580-500 BCE) and Aristotle (384-322 BCE) saw planets and stars revolving around a stationary earth. Egyptian astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (100-170 CE) perpetuated this earth-centered view which lasted to the 1500s. The Catholic Church favored an earth-centered Universe because it left room for heaven and hell.
Frank: Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) first proclaimed a heliocentric, sun-centered planetary system. He held a Catholic Church office. Wanting to avoid Church censorship, he had his book published just before he died in 1543.
Betty: Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) described more precisely Copernicus’s sun-centered system. His assistant, German-born Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), recorded that our Earth and neighboring planets go around our Sun in an ellipse, not a circular path.
Frank: Italian Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) first used a telescope (1609) to observe planetary movement. By confirming Copernicus’ sun-centered system, he ended the Ptolemian earth-centered system. He thus earned the disapproval of the Catholic Church but greatly advanced astronomy.
Betty: England’s Isaac Newton (1642-1727), greatest scientist of his time, gave us Calculus, essential in astronomical computation. Newton sent a beam of sunlight through a glass prism to show that white light consists of a rainbow of colors, flowing from hydrogen burning inside our Sun’s core.
Frank: Newton explained gravity as a force that holds matter together; makes apples fall from trees, the Moon orbit the Earth, planets orbit the Sun, galaxies of suns whirl around the Universe. Newton, who gave us universal laws of motion, separated space and time—which Einstein later connected.
Betty: A hundred and two years ago, in 1905, Albert Einstein, German-born (1879-1955), age 26, worked in the patent office, Bern, Switzerland. That year (1905) he published three amazing scholarly papers. He first clarified how molecules and atoms work. Eighty years earlier (1827) Scottish biologist Robert Brown (b. 1773) saw under a microscope grains of pollen placed in water suddenly move about irregularly. No one was able to explain this movement.
Frank: Using a mathematical formula, Einstein explained this “Brownian movement” as water molecules bombarding the pollen grains and moving them erratically. Unseen by eye or microscope, we know what molecules and atoms do only by their effect on nearby matter.
Betty: Einstein showed that inside the atom are lighter electrons circling heavier protons. Besides electrons and protons atoms contain neutrons and quarks; inside quarks are gluons, and—most recently some believe–tiny vibrating strings. These tiny universes within universes, all electro-magnetically charged, are known by the effect of their charge on nearby matter. Unlike charges attract: plus+ minus-, attract. Like charges repel: plus+plus+, repels; minus-minus-, repels.
Frank: Einstein thus affirmed what English scientists Michael Faraday (1791-1867) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79) had earlier discovered: that all atoms are electro-magnetically charged.
Betty: Einstein’s second 1905 paper said that light, until then considered an electro-magnetic wave, consisted also of independent particles of energy called “photons.” When light photons strike some metals, said Einstein, those metals eject electrons. Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics (1921) for this paper about light. It is the basis of automatic light-operated garage and other door openers, the basis for electronic devices, Television, laser surgery, and PET scans.
Frank: Einstein’s third 1905 paper on Special Relativity and his 1915 paper on General Relativity said that matter and energy are not separate but related and interchangeable. Crack open an atom and matter can be turned into energy. And vice versa, as when a nuclear chain reaction explodes as an atomic bomb or a hydrogen bomb.
Betty: Einstein’s Relativity papers also made three important points: 1-space and time are not separate but operate together as space-time. 2-the gravitational pull of a large planet-like mass will bend both light and space around it. And, 3-E=mc2: Energy equals mass (i.e., matter) multiplied by the speed of light, squared.
Frank: Hard to grasp, little understood, Einstein’s concepts became better known after he sent his 1915 General Relativity paper to University of Leyden (Netherlands) astronomy Prof. Willem de Sitter (1872-1935), who sent the paper on to Cambridge University astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington (1882-1944).
Betty: Eddington, to test Einstein’s theory that light bends around a large mass, planned to photograph an eclipse of the Sun. But in 1915, World War I, England was blockaded by German U-Boats. Eddington waited. He then organized photo expeditions to Brazil and an island off the West African coast, where the May 29, 1919, eclipse was clearest.
Frank: Photos of the eclipse showed that light did bend around the Sun, as Einstein had predicted. The London Times, Nov. 7, 1919, headlined: ”Revolution in Science. New Theory of the Universe. Newton’s Ideas Overthrown.”4
Betty: Einstein, previously unknown, was lionized by the press. For the rest of his life he was a public idol, was on Time magazine’s cover five times, the last on Dec. 31, 1999, as “Man of the Century.”5
Frank: Here’s what a scientist wrote of Einstein’s 1905 findings, 100 years later, in 2005: “E=mc2 is the secret of the stars. It is the cosmic engine that drives the entire universe. It means that even a few tablespoons of matter, if fully [bombarded], can release the energy of an atomic bomb. It’s the reason why the stars shine and why the Sun lights up the Earth. Matter and energy are…the same thing, and can turn into each other. Even a rock can turn into a light ray if the rock [is] uranium and the light ray is a burst of atomic radiation.”6
Betty: What spurred those early 20th century advances in astronomy? Age-old fossils discovered in rock layers in the 1820s-40s during canal and railroad building aroused curiosity. Age-old fossils meant that ours is an old Earth, spawned by an older Sun, part of an ancient Universe. Astronomers were also aided by advances in mathematics and by better built, larger, land-based telescopes. Sophisticated orbiting telescopes, above the Earth’s haze, have, since the 1950s, sent back amazing photos of vast galaxies of stars far far away
Frank: In 1913 U.S. astronomer V. M. Slipher (1875-1969), using the 30-inch telescope at Lowell Observatory, Flagstaff, AZ, first recorded galaxies of stars beyond our Milky Way, moving rapidly away from Earth, away from each other. This was the first inkling of an expanding Universe, expanding from a beginning point, a gigantic eruption, later to be called the Big Bang.
Betty: In 1922 the Russian scientist Alexander Friedmann (1888-1925) proposed the theory of the Big Bang. Friedmann, reasoning from Einstein’s relativity theories, described possible origins of the Universe. Friedmann’s writings were little known. He was caught up in the Russian Revolution and died at 37. But Friedmann’s scenarios built on Einstein’s theories were pivotal in advancing the Big Bang theory.
Frank: Friedmann’s first scenario was a Steady State Universe, without beginning or end, steadily expanding, replacing dying stars with new stars created from inexhaustible swirling gaseous debris in space. Most scientists, including Einstein, long believed in the Steady State theory of the Universe.
Betty: But Friedmann’s second scenario anticipated the Big Bang. If galaxies of stars are expanding, then something made them expand. Galaxies of stars must earlier have been closer together, ever closer, crunched together, ultimately as small as a ball, as tiny as an atom. There must have been a beginning point, a singularity, later called the Big Bang, which wiped out everything before it; which gave birth to all we know of our Universe–its physics, space-time, gravity, elements like hydrogen, stars, galaxies of stars; our Milky Way, Sun, Earth and its life forms.
Frank: Friedmann’s theory played the movie of our vast expanding complex Universe backward to its origin 13.7 billion years ago from a singularity, something so small, dense, hot that it erupted with the energy of a billion hydrogen bombs and rapidly expanded.
Betty: Friedmann envisioned a resulting dark soupy mass mushrooming into incredibly hot gases, giving birth to boiling hot particles which, when cooled, formed hydrogen which, when further cooled, clumped together by gravity to form hydrogen-burning stars, then galaxies of stars which, after billions of years, became our present Universe.
Frank: In 1927 Belgian Catholic priest and University of Louvain Prof. Georges Henri Lemaítre (1894-1966), who studied physics in the U.S., proclaimed publicly what Friedmann had theorized, that the Universe was most likely born 13.7 billion of years ago in a singularity, an instant, thus beginning our space-time, physics, present Universe, stars, and life on Earth.
Betty: The name “Big Bang” was first used about 1930 as a term of derision by Fred Hoyle, a Steady-State British astronomer (1915-2001). Hoyle would not, could not, believe early evidence of the Big Bang origin of the Universe advanced by his rival U.S. astronomer Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), who continued V. M. Slipher’s observation of galaxies of stars beyond our Milky Way.
Frank: Edwin Hubble, using the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory near Pasadena, CA, calibrated the speed of nine galaxies of stars beyond our Milky Way as they moved away from earth, away from each other. Hubble’s Law of 1929 stated that galaxies move apart at a rate that increases with their distance from the Earth.7
Betty: After Edwin Hubble came Russian-born astronomer George Gamow (1904-68), Alexander Friedmann’s student, who later did important space research at George Washington University, Washington, DC.
Frank: Gamow’s 1948 paper offered telescopic and mathematical proof that far off galaxies were moving rapidly away from Earth, away from each other; that they were expanding from the massive Big Bang billions of years ago; that from this pinpoint explosion long ago spewed forth blazing rays and gases which, as they cooled over time, became the atoms, matter, planets, and galaxies of our present Universe.
Betty: Further evidence of the Big Bang came by accident in 1965. An interesting story: radio astronomers Arno Penzias (1933-) and Robert W. Wilson (1936-), working at Bell Laboratory, NJ, measuring radio waves, heard steady static hiss through their receiving antennas, similar to the hiss our TVs make when the screen is snowy and the expected image not received.
Frank: Hearing the same puzzling hiss day and night from all points of the sky beyond our Milky Way galaxy, Penzias and Wilson asked colleagues what this strange static might be.
Betty: A friend told Penzias that two physicists at nearby Princeton, NJ, were searching for the radiation George Gamow had predicted still exists from the Big Bang.
Frank: Penzias and Wilson realized that they had stumbled on the cosmic microwave background of the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. They won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery.
Betty: Some Big Bang doubters questioned the smoothness of the hiss heard by Penzias and Wilson. They said that the hiss should have been as turbulently lumpy as the original gas gushing forth at the instant of creation.
Frank: It was MIT physics Prof. Alan H. Guth (b. 1947) who in 1979 thus explained the smooth hiss: a split instant after the Big Bang the resulting hot gases doubled and redoubled many times, creating a rapid mammoth “Inflation” of the Universe. This gigantic inflation smoothed out the early Universe’s turbulent wrinkles, much as a limp balloon’s wrinkles are smoothed out when the balloon is inflated.8
Betty: More confirmation of the Big Bang came just 15 years ago in 1992 when the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s orbital telescope (called COBE) Cosmic Background Explorer took photos measuring the spectrum of Big Bang remnants. In Sept. 2006 COBE’s leading scientists, John Mather (b. 1946) and George F. Smoot (b. 1945), won the Nobel Prize in Physics for documenting this Big Bang evidence.9 John Mather, incidentally, was our own Mark Heald’s physics student at Swarthmore College, Penn., Class of 1968.
Frank: Now back to Hawking. In 1965, when Penzias and Wilson heard the Big Bang hiss, Stephen Hawking at age 23 was a Cambridge University graduate student looking for a Ph.D. dissertation topic. He had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in Jan. 1962, given 2 years to live, was despondent, but then encouraged to persevere by Jane Wilde, his future wife, an Oxford graduate student. They married in July 1965.
Betty: Encouraged by Jane Wilde and his Cambridge doctoral advisor, Hawking felt reasonably well, wanted to marry, needed a job, knew that to get a university teaching job he needed a Ph.D., and to finish his Ph.D. he needed a dissertation topic.
Frank: Hawking’s dissertation topic idea on Black Holes came from a 1965 paper by Oxford professor of mathematics Roger Penrose (b. 1931-).
Betty: Penrose, a member of Hawking’s Cambridge dissertation committee, showed, mathematically, that Black Holes first erupted with other debris during the Big Bang.
Frank: Penrose also showed that, since the Big Bang, when very large stars burn most of their hydrogen, they collapse, are ultimately crushed into a singularity, a point of infinite density, becoming invisible Black Holes, sucking in with incredible force everything near them: dust, meteorites, planets, galaxies. Black Holes seem to act as giant vacuum cleaners.
Betty: First belief was that nothing escapes a Black Hole, not even light, until Hawking in 1973 showed mathematically that Black Holes do emit absorbed material in garbled form. This emission is called “Hawking Radiation.” Hawking affirmed that Black Holes erupted from the Big Bang as part of the unseen dark matter of the Universe and that Black Holes are still being created from very large burned-out stars. Black Holes’ purpose, still unknown, may be to redirect matter back into the Universe.
Frank: Jane Wilde helped Hawking survive the loss of his neuromuscular control, helped him get his Ph.D. degree, helped in his academic career, and helped him rise to the top of his field as lecturer, author, and Black Hole explorer.
Betty: Jane Hawking’s memoir published in 1999 entitled Music to Move the Stars told of their three children and two grandchildren. She wrote that when Stephen was first in a wheelchair and could not dress himself, they had little outside help except from a few of his physics students in exchange for extra tutoring. They needed money for his care. She encouraged him to write his popular A Brief History of Time, 1988. The book’s success led to a film about the book; later a book was published about the film.
Frank: Their drift apart came with the success of his books, his rising fame, and his near pop-star status. Of their breakup she wrote: “Many factors—fame, fortune, diverging aspirations, priorities and outlook, as well as many people—[came] between [us]… I was cast aside in favour of someone who seemed to offer more constant and devoted nursing care and travel companionship….” 10
Betty: Jane, a devout Christian, was disturbed by Stephen’s agnosticism. They separated in 1991, divorced, both remarried, Stephen Hawking to one of his nurses, Elaine Mason in 1995. He is not an easy man to live with; his second marriage also ended in divorce after 11 years in 2006.11
Frank: Hawking often mentions God in his books and speeches. He says that he is not an atheist. He calls himself an agnostic and like Einstein he sees God in the orderliness of nature. Now, some short Hawking quotations.12
Betty: On God: To Einstein’s statement: “that God does not play dice,” Hawking retorted, “God not only plays dice, He also sometimes throws the dice where they cannot be seen.”
Frank: On “divine inspiration:” “The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired.”
Betty: On wars, viruses, floods, asteroids, other catastrophes: “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years unless we spread into space.”
Frank: On his goal: “My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the Universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.”
Betty: On humanity’s special place: “We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special.”
Frank: On nuclear weapons and climate change: “…we [scientists] foresee great peril if governments and society do not take action now to render nuclear weapons obsolete and prevent further climate change.”13
Betty: On his disability: “It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability. One has to get on with life…. People won’t have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.” 14
Frank: Scientists say the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago wiped out everything that existed earlier and created our physics, space, time, gravity, and the Universe as scientists uncover its mysteries.
Betty: Some scientists speculate that the Big Bang formed more than one Universe, ours and others, each with a different physics and space-time. Hawking has a joke about co-existing multi-universes: if you happen to meet your double from another universe don’t shake hands—you might annihilate one another!
Frank: Co-existing multi-universes? Sound bizarre. So do the ideas of newer “String Theory” scientists. They believe that–besides electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, and gluons—subatomic physics, called Quantum Physics, contains something even smaller–tiny flexible electro-magnetic vibrating strings; strings that loop in and out, connect and disconnect, moving through all matter. The still unknown function of vibrating strings may also be one of direction and control. But these newer theories await further evidence.
Betty: We humans live on a tiny, obscure planet Earth—one of 8 planets which–with Pluto, meteorites, asteroids, and debris orbit around our Sun. Our Sun, which is a second or third generation star, was formed from an outer arm of a swirling, whirling Milky Way Galaxy consisting of maybe billions of stars. And—keep in mind—that our Milky Way Galaxy is itself only one of unknown billions of other galaxies of stars.
Frank: Our Sun has been burning its hydrogen (92.1%) for 4.6 billion years. It has enough fuel for maybe another 5 billion years. As its life ends, its helium (7.8%) will fuse into heavier elements. Our Sun will swell, will swallow our Earth and our Moon, will likely collapse into a white dwarf and in time be absorbed by another galaxies. 15
Betty: Our Moon was formed, scientists think, about 4.5 billion years ago, when a large meteorite struck infant Earth with gigantic force, flinging up vaporized rock and debris, which in time formed a ball to orbit Earth as our Moon.
Frank: Our early Earth bubbled lifeless for a very long time, with gases hissing from cooling and slowly moving rock mantles. From these gases came carbon dioxide, nitrogen, water vapor, but not yet oxygen essential for life.
Betty: As temperatures dropped and the Earth cooled, hot steam became heavy rains, primordial monsoons, filling ocean basins.
Frank: Some 3.8 billion years ago, after meteorite hits abated and oceans were formed, a threshold was reached, a miracle slowly occurred: chemical reaction produced molecules complex enough to reproduce themselves.
Betty: About 3.5 billion years ago single cell bacteria flourished on Earth, spread from cracks in ocean bottoms, from cracks on Earth’s rock mantle. Countless trillions of these microscopic bacteria transformed Earth. As plants they captured our Sun’s energy, to release oxygen as waste, and over millions of years turned Earth’s atmosphere into breathable air, allowing a diversity of plant and animal life to flourish.
Frank: Earth’s magnetic field and ozone layer shield us from most of our Sun’s solar winds and deadly rays. Earth’s unique third position from the Sun limits catastrophic meteorite hits; permits water to exist in stages from ice to steam; shields life forms from the killing frost of planets beyond it: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune (Pluto was reduced from planet status in 2006).
Betty: By Providence or Chance Earth is congenial for living things, congenial in Earth’s safe distance from the Sun, Earth’s modest size, the Earth’s gravitational spin for a 24 hour night and day cycle, the Moon’s control of ocean currents and tides, Earth’s seasonal changes, temperate climate, ozone layer, water, oxygen, and minerals needed for life.
Frank: Even the meteorite hit which killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was providential. For dinosaurs were Earth’s largest eaters of plants and animals. That meteorite hit which destroyed dinosaurs allowed mammals to flourish and humans to emerge.
Betty: Earth alone, so far as we know, has conditions and chemicals needed for human life. We humans are composed of water (75%), carbon (12.5%), oxygen (6.25%); nitrogen (2.5%); and calcium, iron, and other elements (3.75%).15
Frank: So far as we know, we humans on Earth are unique in the Universe, made of Big Bang star dust to which we must ultimately return.
Betty: We have maybe 4 or so billion years before our dying Sun makes Earth uninhabitable. We have much to do.
Frank: We must, very soon, stop wars, limit population growth, develop substitutes for fast depleting fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas), learn how to mine our oceans for food and medicines.
Betty: Conquer major killing diseases; make space travel safer, cheaper, and commercial so as to use raw materials from space.
Frank: We must seek possible intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe and become mutually supportive, for ultimately we will be forced to perpetuate human colonies on other younger, safer planets.
Betty: Frank, let’s end on: 1-the value of this book, 2-religion and the Big Bang, 3-our evaluation of Hawking, and 4-our final thoughts.
Frank: Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time is an eye opener, a humbling experience, making you want to read related works for deeper understanding. (See back tables for books, articles, internet sources we used on Hawking, astronomy, the Universe).
Betty: On religion: Genesis and the Big Bang have a lot in common if you lengthen a Biblical day to mean a long, long time. Religion and science are not in conflict if Divine Will, not Chance, is seen as the author of the Big Bang.
Frank: Also on religion: Most U.S. adults say they believe in a Supreme Being. Maybe half of U.S. adults attend church. The human search for meaning is universal and never ending.16
Betty: Scientific objectivity is as important as separation of church and state, freedom of thought, freedom of choice. It is an antidote to absolutists right or left, secular or religious.
Frank: Beware absolutists with political agendas. Yesterday’s anti-evolution Creationists (1970s), today’s anti-evolution Intelligent Design advocates want to rule over a dictatorial theocracy.
Betty: Beware the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells. Remember Lord Acton’s (1834-1902) quotation: “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Frank: Hawking–and other science popularizers–Jules Verne (1828-1905), H.G. Wells (1866-1946), the late Carl Sagan (1934-96), others–make us think. They encourage young people to study and advance science.
Betty: Hawking is smart, even brilliant, though not yet up to Einstein’s stature. He shows our need to educate children to understand science and the brightest of them to advance science.
Frank: Learning must be strengthened, lengthened to include peace, altruism, concern for others: and making Earth greener, cleaner, safer, more plentiful, more equitable.
Betty: I end with a quotation from a working man’s philosopher, Eric Hoffer (1902-83) who wrote: “the only legitimate end in [human] life is to finish God’s work, to bring to full growth the capacities and talents in all of us.” 17
Frank: I end by saying that Hawking’s search to know the mind of God makes him more the Creator’s helper than the Creator’s debunker. So ends our review and commentary. We learned a lot. We hope you have too. Thank you for being here. Jan Landis. Question-discussion time
1 Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, A Briefer History of Time.” N.Y.: Bantam Book, Oct. 2005, p. 142.
3 Maugh, Thomas H., II. “Dig Provides clues about builders of Stonehenge.” Tennessean (Nashville), Jan. 31, 2007, p. 2A.
4 Clark, Ronald W. Einstein: The Life and Times. NY: World Publishing, 1965, p. 208-209.
6SUNY physicist Michio Kaku, in: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/einstein/expe-text.html
9 Stephen Hawking, A Briefer…, pp. 60-61. Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers. N.Y.: W.W. Norton & Co., 1992, pp. 20-21. Gerald E. Tauber, Relativitity: From Einstein to Black Holes. N.Y.: Franklin Watts, 1988, p. 92.
11(Hawking Quote, Jan. 18, 2007: http://www.dailyindia.com/show/104689.php/Hawking-warns-world-to-wake-up-to-impending-Armageddon
12(Hawking quotes): http://en.thinkexist.com/quotes/stephen_hawking/ http://www.quotedb.com/authors/stephen-hawking http://www.creativequotations.com/one/542.htm
15 Weinstein, Albert, and Steven E. Smith. Cosmology Simplified: Highlights of the Evolution of the Universe. Y2K Edition. Part 2, “Evolution of Life,” Chap. 8, Introduction, in: http://hometown.aol.com/aweinst819/cosmo2k.htm
17 Eric Hoffer, Ordeal of Change. NY: Harper & Row, 1963.
google.com on Stephen Hawking lists 140,000 entries on 10 pages:
Other Books Consulted
Aczel, Amir D. God’s Equation: Einstein, Relativity, and the Expanding University. NY: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999.
Asimov, Isaac. Mysteries of Deep Space: Black Holes, Pulsars, and Quasars. Milwaukee: Gareth Stevens Publishing, 1994.
Ferguson, Kitty. Stephen Hawking: Quest for A Theory of Everything. N.Y.: Bantam, 1992.
Ferris, Timothy. The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
Greene, Brian. The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest fir the Ultimate Theory. N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2003.
Hawking, Stephen. The Universe in a Nutshell. N.Y.: Bantam Books, Nov. 2001.
McEvoy, J. P. & Oscar Zarate. Introducing Stephen Hawking. Icon/Totem, 1995.
Miller, Ron & William K. Hartmann. The Grand Tour: A Traveler’s Guide to the Solar System. N.Y.: Workman Publishing, Rev. 2005.
Morris, Richard. The Fate of the Universe. N.Y.: Playboy Press, 1982.
Strathern, Paul. Hawking and Black Holes. N.Y.: Anchor/Doubleday [Big Idea Series], 1998.
White, Michael & John Gribbin. Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science. Joseph Henry Press, 1992. Dutton, 1992. Plume, 1993.