A Brief History of Time
Okay, let’s get this out of the way: I didn’t understand 90% of this book. And I don’t think most other people will either.
My question is this: can you not understand a book, but still get something out of it?
Yes, I think so.
To be clear, just because I didn’t understand the entire book, doesn’t mean it hasn’t affected my thinking.
For example, I learned that time is relative to everyone. The reason is – I believe – that time is measured by the distance light travels, which is absolute, and the distance light travels is relative depending on how fast the observer is moving. So someone moving faster will observe time differently than someone moving slower.
But, I don’t know, because the chapter got pretty in-depth, and I got lost. I even re-read it multiple times, and watched 3-4 YouTube videos to try and understand. I even went back after I finished the book and re-read that section. It was still confusing.
And the entire book is like this. It is a great introduction to… hell, I don’t even know what. Theoretical physics? Quantum mechanics? Cosmology?
Anyway, it doesn’t matter – the bottom line is that even if I don’t know exactly why time is relative, I know that the possibility of this exists, and it has something to do with light and how fast we’re all hurtling through the universe. Am I better off for knowing this? I think I am.
Half of knowledge is just knowing that you don’t totally know something, but also being aware that a explanation or theory of that thing exists, and smart people have thought very hard about it.
And that’s the story of this book, really. The relativity of time is just one example. There are a dozen Big Concepts in this book to which I was exposed, but that I couldn’t explain to you if my life depended on it: quantum movement, string theory, the arrow of time, wormholes, etc.
But I do know this: scientists think very hard about these things, and a lot of it is just theory. They’re theorizing about the universe based on observations. A hell of a lot of things they believe cannot be proven right now, because the science is still beyond human capacity. But they deduce smaller points from larger points.
So, if you like having your horizons broadened, read this book.
Just don’t feel bad if you don’t get it. Knowing that a thing exists is a valid point of knowledge. And knowing that you don’t understand it – but can conceptualize the vague ballpark of your own non-understanding – is also something of value.
PS: I felt much better after reading about the Hawking Index:
The Hawking Index (HI) is a mock mathematical measure on how far people will, on average, read through a book before giving up. It was invented by American mathematician Jordan Ellenberg, who created it in a blog for the Wall Street Journal in 2014. The index is named after English physicist Stephen Hawking, whose book A Brief History of Time has been dubbed “the most unread book of all time”.