Three central questions of philosophy and science: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why this particular set of laws and not some other? Probably the best persons to make a discussion on such matters as the celebrated University of Cambridge cosmologist Hawking (A Brief History of Time). Along with Caltech physicist Mlodinow (The Drunkard’s Walk),
Hawking uses cutting-edge physics to answer those key questions. For instance, why do we exist? Earth occupies a “Goldilocks Zone” in space: which is the perfect distance from a not-too-hot star, with the right elements to allow life to evolve.
On a grander scale, the authors write, “we need to know not only how the universe behaves, but why.” in order to explain the universe. Currently no single theory exists yet to explain this, though scientists are approaching that goal with “M-theory,” a collection of overlapping theories (string theory included) that fill in many (but not all) the blank spots in quantum physics; this collection is known as the “Grand Unified Field Theories.” We could then possibly have an explanation to the mystery of the universe’s creation without recourse to a divine creator. This is an amazingly concise, easily readable yet intriguing overview of where we stand when it comes to divining the secrets of the universe.
This book is both shorter and clearly written by Stephen Hawkings and might want to pick this up if you are interested in physics but don’t have the patience to read something long and detailed such as Roger Penrose’s “The Road to Reality”. A collection of analogies to make intuitive sense of mathematical concepts works quite well here and the authors don’t push them too far.
If you lack patience for mathematical formulas and want a short and sweet, clearly written physics book that minimizes the mathematics while still surveying the basic concepts of physics and introducing the more speculative current topics, one should check out “The Grand Design”.