book-flipping : a brief history of time

While having nothing to do in the rainy evening, I started to flip through some old books. Since there was an electrical load-shedding in our area, the library seemed dusty under the flashlight. From amongst the heap, I took out A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME, from the big bang to black holes; written by Stephen Hawking. The first time I saw the book was after SLC, when I immediately started to read it; but a pity that I was unable to grasp what the author meant to say. So, page seven was as far as I could get – which was where I had drawn a huge circle with a tag: CONTINUE FROM HERE; and had kept it back on the shelf. However, after some years I managed to complete the book even though I did not fully understand what it was trying to say.

As a habit, I usually mark sentences that I find interesting in a book. This one was no exception, and as I flipped further through its pages today, I encountered a lot of sentences that I had marked with a pencil. Below are a few sentences from random pages throughout the book.

  • The eventual goal of science is to provide a single theory that describes the whole universe.
  • The discovery of a complete unified theory may not aid the survival of our species. It may not even affect our life-style. But ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved for the understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.
  • An event is something that happens at a particular point in space and at a particular time. So one can specify it by four numbers or coordinates.
  • In order to predict the future position and velocity of a particle, one has to be able to measure its present position and velocity accurately.
  • Aristotle believed that all the matter in the universe was made up of four basic elements, earth, air, fire and water. These elements were acted on by two forces: gravity, the tendency for earth and water to sink, and levity, the tendency for air and fire to rise.
  • According to some accounts, a journalist told Eddington in the early 1920s that he had heard there were only three people in the world who understood general relativity. Eddington paused, then replied, “I am trying to think who the third person is.”
  • The explanation that is usually given as to why we don’t see broken cups gathering themselves together off the floor and jumping back onto the table is that it is forbidden by the second law of thermodynamics. This says that in any closed system disorder, or entropy, always increases with time.
  • In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, science became too technical and mathematical for the philosophers, or anyone else except a few specialists. Philosophers reduced the scope of their inquiries so much that Wittgenstein, the most famous philosopher of the century, said “The sole remaining task for philosophy is the analysis of language.”

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