Book Cover

In which the sometimes-irascible but mostly genial British
mathematician finds himself a superhero in a comic-book life.

“Is God bound by the laws of physics?” So wondered young Stephen
Hawking (1942-2018), who soon enough would find himself bound by motor neurone
disease. In the end, after years of thinking about it, he responded in the
negative to an interviewer’s question, “Is there room for God in the universe you
describe?” Hawking worried about all kinds of things, easily blending the
worlds of mathematics and physics. Toward the end of his life, for instance,
the thought occurred to him that any extraterrestrials who visited Earth would
conclude that humans were a pest and needed to be exterminated. Before that, as
writer Ottaviani and artist Myrick (co-authors: Feynman, 2011) note
in this fluent, fun graphic biography, Hawking advanced striking theories in a
scientific world whose key players sometimes seemed stuck in Newtonian
physics—for example, by looking at the mathematics of white dwarf stars, the
expanding universe, black holes, and so forth. You might jump into a black
hole, he posited, but you would not be able to reverse the direction of the
arrow of time, so that by jumping in in the past, you would wind up in the
future. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to come up with enough math to
prove anything about this,” says a doubtful interlocutor, to which Hawking
replies, “Perhaps not. But I’d rather be right than rigorous.” Readers new to
Hawking’s ideas, and particularly his enigmatic musings about the nature of
time, will find this book, cartoonish as it is, to be full of insight; the
science is sharp and to the point. And there are moments of good humor and
beauty alike, especially in the vision of Hawking ascending, godlike, toward
the event horizon, taking his place in the heavens.

Every world-changing scientist deserves such an entertaining but
factually rich treatment.

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