The Grand Design, a new book by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow, has gained mainstream attention because it contains the statement that it’s not necessary for a supernatural creator being such as the Christian god to exist in order for physics to make sense. Articles about the book have made it seem as if that’s some kind of startling revelation. It’s not. It comes from the book’s review of the philosophy of science, as it developed from Ancient Greece to the modern day. It’s old news.
What’s not such old news is The Grand Design‘s description of quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is a concept about a century old, but the ways to communicate quantum reality are still being worked out. This book is the latest iteration of that effort, and includes fairly new insights in the area, such as the concepts of membrane theory.
I’ve known, from previous reading in the subject area, that the quantum world is weird, but The Grand Design has been particularly helpful in revealing how the quantum world can be comprehensible to those of us who live in the macroscopic world. Without getting bogged down in a series of equations, Hawking and Mlodinow communicate how quantum reality fits as a natural part of the reality we know. Their explanation of the way that Planck’s constant makes mass the determinant of unpredictability is the most clear that I’ve ever read. After reading this book, I feel that I almost have the fascinating concept through my thick skull.
Hawking and Mlodinow barely waste a word in their explanations of tiny, profound discoveries. The Grand Design is not a thick book, but it’s well worth the investment of buying a copy in hardcover.