Reflections on some pop sci books

June 27, 2011

Over the course of the last two weeks or so I’ve forayed into reading popular science books on physics for the first time. Namely, I read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking and then The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. Both dealt with relativity, quantum and particle physics, and cosmology. Greene’s book went further, introducing the “time’s arrow” concept and also discussing superstring theory and ending with some speculations on the future of physics research (a few up-and-coming experiments, and teleportation, wormholes, and time travel).

Overall, I think that Greene is a better writer. Both authors are respected physicists at the forefront of their profession, although I think there is no doubt that Hawking is in a class of his own. Despite superior intelligence, this detracts from Hawking’s writing since he seems extremely eager to highlight his own discoveries, relevant as they are, in order to give himself credit. Greene does mention his own work but he comes off as much less intimidating to the reader. Even with ideas that he himself labels difficult to explain without the math, he comes off as lucid and easy to understand. I was also thankful for extensive endnotes which gave fuller explanations to advanced or “mathematically inclined” readers, as well as pointers to further reading.

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