A Brief History of Time

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A Brief History of Time  

Author Stephen Hawking
Language English
Genre(s) Popular science
Publisher Bantam Dell Publishing Group
Publication date 1988
Media type book
Pages 256
ISBN ISBN-13 9780553109535

A Brief History of Time is a popular science book written by Stephen Hawking and first published by the Bantam Dell Publishing Group in 1988. It became a best-seller and has sold more than 9 million copies. It was also on the London Sunday Times best-seller list for more than four years.[1]

There is also a documentary by the same name, directed by Errol Morris and released in 1991. Unlike the book, the documentary is primarily a biography of Stephen Hawking.


[edit] Book contents

A Brief History of Time attempts to explain a range of subjects in cosmology, including the Big Bang, black holes, light cones and superstring theory, to the nonspecialist reader. Its main goal is to give an overview of the subject but, unusual for a popular science book, it also attempts to explain some complex mathematics. The author notes that an editor warned him that for every equation in the book the readership would be halved, hence it includes only a single equation: E = mc². In addition to Hawking's abstinence from equations, the book also simplifies matters by means of illustrations throughout the text, depicting complex models and diagrams.

The book is considered by many to be an "unread bestseller", which is a book many people own but few have finished.[2]

[edit] Editions

  • 1988. Edition. This edition included a foreword by Carl Sagan that tells the following story: Sagan was in London for a scientific conference in 1974, and between sessions he wandered into a different room, where a larger meeting was taking place. "I realized that I was watching an ancient ceremony: the investiture of new fellows into the Royal Society, one of the most ancient scholarly organizations on the planet. In the front row, a young man in a wheelchair was, very slowly, signing his name in a book that bore on its earliest pages the signature of Isaac Newton... Stephen Hawking was a legend even then." In his Introduction, Sagan goes on to add that Hawking is the "worthy successor" to Newton and P. A. M. Dirac, both former Lucasian Professors of Mathematics.[3]

The foreword disappeared after the first edition. It was copyrighted by Sagan, rather than by Hawking or the publisher, and the publisher did not have the right to reprint it forever. Hawking wrote his own introduction for later editions.

  • 1996—Illustrated, updated and expanded edition. This hardcover edition contained full color illustrations and photographs to help further explain the text, as well as the addition of topics that were not included in the original book.
  • 1998—The Tenth Anniversary Edition—Is the same text as the one published in 1996, but was also released in paperback and has only a few diagrams included.

September of 2005 saw the release of A Briefer History of Time (a collaboration with Leonard Mlodinow), which is an abridged version of the original book. It was updated again to address new issues that have arisen due to further scientific development.

[edit] Film

In 1991, Errol Morris directed a documentary film about Hawking, but although they share a title, the film is a biographical study of Hawking, and not a filmed version of the book.

[edit] In popular culture

There have been numerous references to the book in popular culture.

[edit] Films

[edit] Television

  • This book is featured in and is part of the mythology of the T.V. show Lost. In the episode "Not in Portland", one of the Others is seen reading the book while on guard duty. Additionally, the book was seen on Ben Linus's kitchen table in The Man from Tallahassee. Also the show features time travel.
  • In the episode "What We Did On Our Summer Vacation" of the TV show The Adventures of Pete & Pete, the character Ellen is seen reading the book.
  • In an episode of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy Billy was assigned to write a report according to a book called A Not So Brief History of Time, which he confused with a horror story. This may be a reference to the fact that Stephen Hawking and Stephen King, a horror novelist, have similar names.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror VI", upon seeing the dimension he accidentally entered begin to destroy itself, Homer says "Oh, there's so much I don't know about astrophysics. I wish I'd read that book by that wheelchair guy."
  • In John Safran vs. God, John Safran comments on the book being an "unread bestseller," saying that readers left their "bookmarks exactly where they [had] left it nine years ago, on page 3."
  • The book has been featured in the Megadeth documentary, by Frederic Wallace, in a poster in Dave Mustaine's living room
  • Family guy episode where meg finds faith in god and goes to a book burning mob. one of the books thrown in the fire is "A brief History Of Time"

[edit] Other

[edit] Parodies

  • MC Hawking, a nerdcore hip hop artist who parodies Stephen, named his album A Brief History of Rhyme.
  • As a part of their series of Randy Newman theatrical film soundtrack parodies, comedy music duo Paul and Storm wrote a song about the film.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ "Hawking's briefer history of time". news.bbc.co.uk. 2001-10-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1599719.stm. Retrieved on 2008-08-06. 
  2. ^ Pollock, Robert J. (2001-08-10). "All Those Words". opinionjournal.com. http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=95000946%20Opinion%20Journal. 
  3. ^ Hawking, Stephen (1988). A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-38016-8. 

[edit] External links

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