It's probably safe to say that Stephen Hawking's 1988 A Brief History of Time is the least-read best-seller ever. But it was wildly successful. Hawking, a professor of theoretical physics at Cambridge University, has subsequently achieved mythic status, appearing on The Simpsons and Star Trek: The Next Generation, where he played chess with a holographic Albert Einstein.
His new book, The Universe in a Nutshell, like Brief History, has made a quantum leap in sales. The topics addressed are fascinating: a review of Einstein's theories, the nature of black holes, and whether time travel is possible. Yet his musings remain inscrutable. In the chapter on time travel, for example, he writes: "One might dispute whether closed-loop particle histories have anything to do with the warping of spacetime, because they occur even in fixed backgrounds, such as flat space." Some might dispute it. But I wouldn't.
By Paul Raeburn