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THE GRAND DESIGN: THE LATEST BOOK BY HAWKING

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One of the greatest scientists of modern physics is Stephen Hawking. He is a writer too, he has a best sellers under his belt named "A brief history of Time." Couple of days ago he released the excerpts from his brand new book named "The Grand Design", this time an American Physicist Leonard Mlodinow, who is a distinguish faculty of CALTECH (California Institute of Technology).

From the excerpts it seems that he has tried to touch those realms directly taken from PHILOSOPHY as he proclaimed, "Philosophy is Dead. Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly Physics." The authors argued that Science is poised to answer those questions that philosophers could only ponder.

Fundamental questions like "why do we exist?" or "where did the Universe come from?" or "did it require a creater?" which were considered as the topics related with Philosophy now a days become a part of hardcore physics.

Science was traditionally branded as the subject that deals with questions related the knowledge of "how" where as the inquiries into "why" traditionally the domains of Philosophers.

As science is catching up a rapid progress in the domains of fundamental particles, known as "Particle Physics" and "quantum field theory", a possibility of "Grand Converges" of physical laws is slowly but convincingly becoming evident. One can say that slowly but steadily the subject of science or rather I should say Physics is becoming confident enough to make an entry to the realms of "why". Therefore, according to Hawkins, the glorious days of contemporary philosophy are over, the ground breaking thoughts are now a domain of nothing but pure Science. The domains of Philosophy and Meta-physics slowly became a sub-domain of Physics.

In the book Hawking reveals the flavours of new physics like M-theory, a modified version of higher dimensional string theory with the juxtapositioned of the concept of supersymmetry.

It's a confidence born of "M-theory," a still-evolving concept that Hawking and others have been working on for about a decade. No one seems to know the origin of the "M"; it could stand for "meta," "master," "miracle" or even "mystery."

Hawking contends that M-theory shows great promise in explaining the circumstances of the universe's dense, hot beginning, known as the Big Bang, and the unique characteristics of the cosmos that resulted.

M-theory may turn out to be an overlapping network of theories, knitting together the universe's unwieldy fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Gravity is the weakest of the four, and operates over long distances. The other three work on extremely small scales, dictating how the components of atoms behave.

Physicists spent much of the 20th century toiling to marry the seemingly disparate characteristics of the four forces and the particles that manifest them. Einstein, whose theory of general relativity wrangled gravity into an understandable framework, labored the final years of his life to bring the other forces into the fold. But his distrust of quantum mechanics -- the inherently weird, everywhere-at-once description of behavior on the atomic and subatomic scales -- doomed Einstein's efforts.

Quantum theory eventually helped unite electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces, but gravity stubbornly stayed outside the tent. Beginning in the 1970s, though, a "quantumized" concept of gravity's behavior called "supergravity" appeared to pave the way for unification. Supergravity, in turn, sprang from string theory, the out-there idea that forces and matter result from vibrations of one-dimensional strings.

Gradually, Hawking and other physicists have started to realize that supergravity and string theory seem to be two sides of the same coin -- a concept they've come to call M-theory. It's a supremely strange model, with 11 space-time dimensions (most of them so tiny and curled-up that they're undetectable), and populated not only by vibrating strings and particles, but two-dimensional membranes, three-dimensional blobs and multidimensional objects called p-branes.

Under M-theory's tenets, Hawking contends, it is possible for the universe -- actually multiple, coexisting universes -- to pop into being from nothing. "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going," he writes.

Likewise, the unique conditions in our universe that seem fine-tuned by a creator to enable human life -- the narrow tolerances that keep atoms from flying apart and make it possible for dust to coalesce into stars and us -- are rendered unremarkable by the vast numbers of universes that M-theory says must exist, each with its own laws.

With so many universes, the odds of one just right for us don't seem so long.

In Europe's mega atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, experiments which mimic conditions of the early universe may show whether some of M-theory's predictions are on the money.

It's hard to explain the Theory of Everything without first explaining what everything is. Hawking and Mlodinow, who collaborated on 2005's "A Briefer History of Time," the stripped-down, updated version of Hawking's classic "A Brief History of Time," perform admirably here.

The details of M-theory can be daunting, but the pair makes it as accessible as possible, leavening it with regular dollops of Hawking's droll humor. (The concept of multiple dimensions, the authors observe, "might sound exciting to scientists, but they would cause real problems if you forgot where you parked your car.")

"The Grand Design" is a provocative, mind-expanding book, a window into Hawking's own restless, wide-ranging brain. It's no beach read, but then again, summer's over. For the intellectually game, school is back in session.



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