Most of the time I read recently released books, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good books out there that were published more than a few months ago. I’m not talking the “classics” — which honestly don’t generally appeal to me all that much (with apologies to my old English teachers). There are books from the past couple of decades that still resonate and have real value.
Recently I decided to pick up (electronically, at least, on my Kindle) Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time. It fits with my sense of curiosity that I wrote about not long ago. Sometimes it’s good to get “off topic” and just dive into an interesting compilation of information.
Ever since I was a kid, I have had a sense of wonderment about space and science. The way the universe functions and the laws of nature have real appeal to me. Pondering the vast expanse of outer space and the immense objects and energy that exists captures my imagination. In this, I suspect I’m not unlike many people.
Back in school, I studied much of this sort of thing. In high school, I learned a lot from science class, especially physics. When I went to American University, I was fortunate enough to take a couple of tremendous astronomy classes as electives. And today I often find myself setting down the TV remote when I skip across a channel that features stories about space and the fundamental building blocks of the universe.
What’s In the Book
A Briefer History of Time does a nice job of encapsulating many of the things I already knew, adding to that knowledge, and — most importantly — packaging it in an easy to read and (relatively) easy to understand manner.
For my fellow nerds, there’s plenty of discussion of some of the classic scientists. Newton and Einstein play prominent roles. But so do other entertaining characters like Erwin Schrodinger. Gravity, atomic physics, quantum mechanics, relativity and more great theories and laws make appearances.
And it wouldn’t be nearly as appealing as its interesting hypotheses about time travel and — one of my personal favorites — the notion of alternate histories. All good stuff. It’s the kind of science fiction/fact that I find far more appealing than the fiction-only stuff that seems so popular with many of my geek friends.
The Broader Meaning
Beyond the science of it all, taking the time to read this book really helps remind us all that there’s lots we don’t know. If Newton and Einstein didn’t have it all right, how can we? And even when we think we know something, it may not be true after all. Truth and facts are relative and fleeting in the big picture.
These concepts don’t just apply to how the universe works, but also to what we do in our private and professional lives. That which we believe — with justifiable evidence — to be accurate today may indeed change when we get more information tomorrow.
It’s important that we all keep this in mind in all that we do and say. There’s real merit in avoiding strident, vociferous judgment of ideas and people. There’s value in maintaining good relationships with competitors, opponents, and others with whom we may not see eye to eye.
Accepting the malleability of life is not a weakness, but rather a virtue. It does not mean we should not stake out important positions, remain true to our beliefs, and work to vanquish our opponents or take business from our competitors. It just means we need to be aware of how we do it.
So if you haven’t read this book, or it’s older, longer sibling A Brief History of Time, go ahead and pick it up. It will feed your curiosity about topics larger than your day-to-day issues, but hopefully also cause you to think about the grander scheme of things in everything you do.