“I put a lot of effort into writing A Briefer History [of Time] at a time when I was critically ill with pneumonia because I think that it’s important for scientists to explain their work, particularly in cosmology. This now answers many questions once asked of religion.”1
“What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary.”2
“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works.”3
“So Einstein was wrong when he said, ‘God does not play dice.’ Consideration of black holes suggests, not only that God does play dice, but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.”4
Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is modern Physics. Only the Bible and Shakespeare have sold more copies in the nonfiction books category. The deep disagreements Stephen Hawking has with Albert Einstein’s meaning of general relativity are actually religious disagreements. Before reading A Brief History of Time you should grasp Albert Einstein’s understanding of general relativity. A clear and simple work is the 1938 The Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld.
They take us to 221-B Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes ponders the great mystery of the universe. How do we go about solving this great mystery? What tools does Sherlock Holmes have available? How should he use them? What clews are available?
Since both Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld were born and raised as German Jews, English was a foreign language to them. The book is filled with archaic British spellings, such as clew for clue, which will either annoy or amuse you. While their writing style requires some thought, their perspective helps us think through some complicated issues. This book has no formulas or mathematics. The illustrations are very simple and the picture plates are black and white. This three hundred-page book only has four chapters.
“There comes a time where the investigator has collected all of the facts he needs for at least some phase of his problem. These facts often seem quite strange, incoherent, and wholly unrelated. The great detective, however, realizes that no further investigation is needed at the moment, and only pure thinking will lead to a correlation of the facts collected.”5 Sherlock Holmes hones in on the problem of defining motion. Because of the concepts of point, line, curve and vector developed by the ancient Greeks, we have the tools to analyze motion. Einstein and Infeld then expand to the rest of Euclid’s two-dimensional geometry. These ancient concepts are the foundation of modern physics.
The opening chapter, “The Rise of the Mechanical View,” covers almost 2000 years of thought, from Greece to the kinetic theory of matter developed by Sir Isaac Newton. According to Einstein, Newton was the most important physicist prior to the twentieth century. He wrote down two ideas which define classical physics. The formula for gravity allows for the prediction of mass, velocity and direction of objects. Even more important than the formula for gravity is the concept of inertia.
The Ancients, including the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Chinese, built massive stone structures which required advanced math. Whatever tools they developed are lost. The Greeks rediscovered some of these tools and their math is written down. In Einstein’s book, they developed physics in what we call three-dimensional space, but only used two dimensions. Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler used three-dimensional physics in astronomy. The next step was developed by Newton. The mathematical basis of Calculus was written down by Newton, though the theory of Calculus goes back to Egypt.
The value of a theory is its ability to make a prediction. Though gravity was known and understood since Adam, Newton was the first to understand that gravity is field-related to mass and to derive formulas for the relationship between gravity and mass. With these formulas, careful observations of objects such as planets, moons, comets, asteroids, etc. can be used to predict their orbits, determine their mass and calculate their relationships to one another. These gravitational formulas depend on a new discovery by Newton, inertia. He also wrote down the two laws for inertia.
His laws for inertia, building on the mathematics of the Greeks and Arabs and extending via gravity into the motion of heavenly bodies, depend on what Einstein calls absolute time and absolute space. That is, everyone views the same actions and reactions the same way at the same time. For the way the average person views the universe, this is true.
Newton even had a theory of relativity. Newton’s example uses a man with a ball bouncing up and down on a table with two observers. One man is traveling with the table and bouncing ball. To the man in motion with the table, the ball appears to be bouncing straight up and down. The other man is stationary and observes the other man, the table and the ball bouncing up and down to have an additional motion which the man traveling with the ball and table do not observe. Newton believed that even though the two men observed different motion of the ball, time was absolutely the same for both men. However, more precise instruments began to find problems with this.
The next chapter, “The Decline of the Mechanical View,” begins with these words: “The following pages contain a dull report of some very simple experiments. The account will be boring not only because the description of experiments is uninteresting in comparison with their actual performance, but also because the meaning of the experiments does not become apparent until theory makes it so. Our purpose is to furnish a striking example of the role of theory in physics.”6
This entire chapter is devoted to the problems of mechanical physics and is theoretical. Though the authors use humor and clever illustrations, it is a boring topic. It is also very necessary to properly understand the rest of the book. What are heat and light? What is magnetism? What is electricity? What is gravity? Are they energy? Are they properties of the substance emitting them? Do they have mass? The answers to these questions require a new examination of the facts and new theories to explain the facts.
The next chapter, “Field, Relativity,” begins about the time of Newton, so it covers much of the same time period as the previous chapter with a great shift in perspective. “The Decline of the Mechanical View” examines the problems and failed attempts to explain the universe with the mechanical view. “Field, Relativity” abandons the mechanical view and proposes different solutions. Modern readers will be more familiar with the term classical physics to describe what this book calls the mechanical view and field theory.
Field theory is better known today as electromagnetism. Field theory deals with the forces between neutrons, protons and electrons, rather than the matter made by atomic particles. Understanding the relationship between electromagnetism and gravity was the “death knell” for strictly Newtonian physics and the need for a new approach.
Though many men before him worked on the problem before he tackled it, Albert Einstein was the first to work out the math of special relativity. The real import of The Evolution of Physics is the distinctions between special and general relativity in Einstein’s own words. These distinctions are written in terms as simple and easy to understand as is possible.
Albert Einstein attempted to solve these problems with the mechanical view by using the mechanical view. His failure resulted in the theory of special relativity. He illustrates special relativity with a man in an idealized elevator falling forever towards the earth. He releases both a handkerchief and a ball. The elevator, the man, the handkerchief and the ball are all falling at the same rate. Inertia is real to the man because he is part of the closed system. Time, as well as gravity, is the same for all four because they are all part of what Einstein calls the same co-ordinate system (CS). Therefore, time is part of that CS. This relationship between this particular CS and time Einstein calls the space-time continuum. To the observer inside this CS, it is not much different from classical or mechanical relativity, except that time is added as part of space. It recognizes, however, that there are other co-ordinate systems existing at the same time as your CS.
General relativity, which Einstein worked on for years after publishing special relativity, is looking at the first CS (the man in the falling elevator) from a viewpoint outside of the elevator, an entirely different CS. Now time is moving at two different speeds. Time slows down with greater gravity and each CS has its own gravity. Now there is no inertia, only apparent inertia. Gravity warps time. Objects, such as photons of light, traveling outside of any gravitational field, such as between stars or galaxies will travel much greater distances in the same amount of time as an object in a gravitational field, such as on earth. The speed of light is a constant, but the time it is traveling is not.
Too much information, too quickly? This is why Einstein uses so many illustrations and spends many pages laying the foundation.
The chapter Quanta clearly shows differences between classical and modern physics. In the serious rift between the quanta physicists, such as Steven Hawking and the classical physicists, this brief chapter is a very fair presentation of the quanta position by a classical physicist. Modern physicists regard Albert Einstein’s views as classical and opposed to modern quantum mechanics. That is certainly the position of Stephen Hawking.
Newton wrote a theory of relativity which is called classical or mechanical today. The way Einstein describes classical relativity is a ball bouncing up and down on a table in a moving train. To the man on the train moving with the train, the ball seems to be bouncing straight up and down. But to a man standing on a platform looking into the window of the train, the ball is taking a zigzag path as it moves with the train. Both observers, however, use the same clock and the same space (CS, Co-ordinate System). This led to some problems with the results of several experiments with light.
“Today scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic partial theories – the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. They are the great intellectual achievements of the first half of this century. The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe, that is, the structure on scales from only a few miles to as large as a million million million million (1 with twenty zeros after it) miles, the size of the observable universe. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales, such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch. Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other. They cannot both be correct.”7
“However, we still use Newton’s theory for all practical purposes because the difference between its predictions and those of general relativity is very small in the situations that we normally deal with. (Newton’s theory also has the great advantage that it is much simpler to work with than Einstein’s!).”8
Einstein’s oft-repeated statement God did not play dice with the universe showed at least a deistic belief. As Einstein grew older, he seems to have returned to some form of liberal Judaism. He also stated quite often that the most miraculous part of the universe was that it made sense. The variety and complexity of the universe should result in chaos, not order. General Relativity to Einstein was an astronomical increase in complexity and order of the Universe.
“Modern” or “Progressive” physicists represented by Stephen Hawking see General Relativity as an infinite universe with life becoming insignificant. “The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet, orbiting around a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a hundred billion galaxies. We are so insignificant that I can’t believe the whole universe exists for our benefit. That would be like saying that you would disappear if I closed my eyes.”9
Stephen Hawking disdains religion, because religion “is based on authority” while science “is based on observation and reason.”3 The only honest scientific answer is that is this statement is a lie. The entire basis of the religion of modern physics is Stephen Hawking’s Papal pronouncement, “The life we have on Earth must have spontaneously generated itself. It must therefore be possible for life to exist spontaneously elsewhere in the universe.”10
Spontaneous generation is anti-science. Every attempt to generate life has failed. Spontaneous generation is pure religious belief without a shred of any kind of evidence, scientific, circumstantial or hearsay. It is a desperate belief in the ridiculous in order to ignore the scientific evidence.
1 A Brief History of Time Chapter 8 1988, 1996, 2001
2 Der Spiegel (17 October 1988)
3 Interview with Diane Sawyer, as quoted in “Stephen Hawking on Religion: ‘Science Will Win’” on ABC World News (07 June 2010)
4 During the 1994 exchange with Penrose, transcribed in The Nature of Space and Time (1996) by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose, p. 26 and also in “The Nature of Space and Time” (online text)
5 The Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, 1938, 1966, 2007, 2008, p. 4.
6 The Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld, 1938, 1966, 2007, 2008, p. 69.
7 A Brief History of Time Chapter 1 1988, 1996, 2001
8 A Brief History of Time Chapter 1 1988, 1996, 2001
9 From an interview with Ken Campbell on the 1995 show Reality on the Rocks: Beyond Our Ken
10 From an appearance in the Discovery Channel program “Alien Planet” (May 14, 2005)