The Grand Design
By Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow
Bantam; 198 pages
Here's betting you don't understand a lot of what Hawking writes about. And here's betting you love it all the same. That's always been the central conundrum of cosmology: the very quality that makes it so fascinating--the way it demolishes our concepts of how the universe should run--also defies the limits of our brains. In Hawking's new book, co-written with Mlodinow, a Caltech physicist, the authors bring to the field an anecdotal clarity that is something of a first for this genre. You will be humbled by the comparison of goldfish gazing out of a bowl and humans gazing out at the cosmos, but you may also understand for the first time why different dimensions and different realities can be governed by predictable physics. You may not expect the authors to use the South Pole to explain the beginning of time, but you may finally grasp how it's possible to say that time does have an actual beginning. Making science like this interesting is not all that hard; making it accessible is the real trick, one that The Grand Design pulls off.