A Briefer History of Time

Version: Unabridged
Author: Stephen Hawking , Leonard Mlodinow
Narrator: Erik Davies
Genres: Science & Technology, Astronomy & Physics
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Published In: September 2005
# of Units: 4 CDs
Length: 5 hours
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Stephen Hawking's worldwide bestseller, A Brief History of Time, has been a landmark volume in scientific writing. Its author's engaging voice is one reason, and the compelling subjects he addresses is another: the nature of space and time, the role of God in creation, the history and future of the universe. But it is also true that in the years since its publication, readers have repeatedly told Professor Hawking of their great difficulty in understanding some of the book's most important concepts.

This is the origin of and the reason for A Briefer History of Time: its author's wish to make its content more accessible to readers –as well as to bring it up-to-date with the latest scientific observations and findings.

Although this book is literally somewhat "briefer," it actually expands on the great subjects of the original. Purely technical concepts, such as the mathematics of chaotic boundary conditions, are gone. Conversely, subjects of wide interest that were difficult to follow because they were interspersed throughout the book have now been given entire chapters of their own, including relativity, curved space, and quantum theory.

This reorganization has allowed the authors to expand areas of special interest and recent progress, from the latest developments in string theory to exciting developments in the search for a complete unified theory of all the forces of physics. Like prior editions of the book–but even more so–A Briefer History of Time will guide nonscientists everywhere in the ongoing search for the tantalizing secrets at the heart of time and space.

Reviews (11)


Written by Anonymous on April 30th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 1/5

I have to be honest - I didn't even make it through the first disc. Unless you are familiar with the concepts presented by Hawking, I think this one would be tough going on audio. I own the book and found it easier to understand that way.

Good book

Written by alex1432 on October 4th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This really is a brief history and contains no complex formulas or long winded explanations. I personally was hoping for a little more details but still there were some new trains of thoughts on timetravel that I have not read before and were easy to understand. If you want a brief history of current scientific thoughts on the universe this is a good book for it.

A Briefer History of Time

Written by Enjabee on October 12th, 2007

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Truly a 'brief' history, this was a concise 4 disk explanation of the basic theories of the universe and the physics surrounding all of existence. It was completely understandable by a layperson, entertaining and informative at the same time. The narration was easy to listen to, the voice pleasant and well inflected. I would definitely recommend this book either as a refresher or a beginning foray into the theories of Newton, Einstein, Quantum physics and more.

A Briefer History of Time

Written by Sharon Kaffen on September 29th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

I am a science junky and this was a great fix!!! After reading Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything," I graduated to Hawkings. They didn't teach this stuff when I was in school, so now I have an update on everything from time travel to the String Theory! If you love science, you'll love this book.

A Briefer History

Written by Julie Pyne on July 22nd, 2006

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I never was able to finish a Brief History in Time and this book was briefer and perhaps simpler. However, I claim the uncertainty principle here: it cannot be determined precisely whether I was understanding at any certain point. Still, Hawkings explanations of relativity, uncertainty and the string theory are worth the effort at comprehension. This book will have you marveling at our universe and at the scientists that attempt to explain it.

Blow your boundaries away

Written by Cheryl Fox on July 20th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Fascinating book...some of it went right over my head but it was just an amazing look at the whole universe around us and how theories have grown over time. Amazing how science fits right in with spirituality. Curved space...I love it!

Great Book

Written by Jason Omar on June 23rd, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

A fantastic book. Hawking does a fantastic job of describing the universe in laymans terms. I wish that my physics professors in college taught with half the passion that Hawking has for his field.


Written by Wil Morphew on May 11th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

reading this one, down to the last CD..I really like it and its not too hard to understand...probably the best one I've read yet in this field.

A Briefer History of Time

Written by Andy from San Diego, CA on April 15th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 5/5

[unabridged] Superb book! Stephen Hawking does a great job giving a very brief overview of relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory. He ties them together in a remarkably clear and interesting manner. Also consider reading (not available at SimplyAudioBooks) "Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene for a more thorough coverage of string theory. Greene also did a spectacular piece about string theory on PBS television.


Written by Bob Stewart on March 20th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I "read" all of my audiobooks in the car. That doens't work for this book which requires a lot of attention. I'd recommend it, but not if you're going to listen while you drive. One minor quibble: I didn't particularly like the reader's voice, but that's just a personal preference.

Author Details

Author Details

Hawking, Stephen

Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England. His father, a well-known researcher in tropical medicine, urged his son to seek a career in medicine, but Stephen found biology and medicine were not exact enough. Therefore, he turned to the study of mathematics and physics.

Hawking was not an outstanding student at St. Alban's School, nor later at Oxford University, which he entered in 1959. He was a social young man who did little schoolwork because he was able to grasp the essentials of a mathematics or physics problem quickly. At home he reports, "I would take things apart to see how they worked, but they didn't often go back together." His early school years were marked by unhappiness at school, with his peers and on the playing field. While at Oxford he became increasingly interested in physics (study of matter and energy), eventually graduating with a first class honors in physics (1962). He immediately began postgraduate studies at Cambridge University.

The onset of Hawking's graduate education at Cambridge marked a turning point in his life. It was then that he embarked upon the formal study of cosmology, which focused his study. And it was then that he was first stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease, a weakening disease of the nervous and muscular system that eventually led to his total confinement in a wheelchair. At Cambridge his talents were recognized, and he was encouraged to carry on his studies despite his growing physical disabilities. His marriage in 1965 was an important step in his emotional life. Marriage gave him, he recalled, the determination to live and make professional progress in the world of science. Hawking received his doctorate degree in 1966. He then began his lifelong research and teaching association with Cambridge University.

Hawking made his first major contribution to science with his idea of singularity, a work that grew out of his collaboration (working relationship) with Roger Penrose. A singularity is a place in either space or time at which some quantity becomes infinite (without an end). Such a place is found in a black hole, the final stage of a collapsed star, where the gravitational field has infinite strength. Penrose proved that a singularity could exist in the space-time of a real universe.

Drawing upon the work of both Penrose and Albert Einstein (1879–1955), Hawking demonstrated that our universe had its origins in a singularity. In the beginning all of the matter in the universe was concentrated in a single point, making a very small but tremendously dense body. Ten to twenty billion years ago that body exploded in a big bang that initiated time and the universe. Hawking was able to produce current astrophysical (having to do with the study of stars and the events that occur around them) research to support the big bang theory of the origin of the universe and oppose the competing steady-state theory.

Hawking's research led him to study the characteristics of the best-known singularity: the black hole. A black hole's edges, called the event horizon, can be detected. Hawking proved that the surface area (measurement of the surface) of the event horizon could only increase, not decrease, and that when two black holes merged the surface area of the new hole was larger than the sum of the two original.

Hawking's continuing examination of the nature of black holes led to two important discoveries. The first, that black holes can give off heat, opposed the claim that nothing could escape from a black hole. The second concerned the size of black holes. As originally conceived, black holes were immense in size because they were the end result of the collapse of gigantic stars. Hawking suggested the existence of millions of mini-black holes formed by the force of the original big bang explosion.

In the 1980s Hawking answered one of Einstein's unanswered theories, the famous unified field theory. A complete unified theory includes the four main interactions known to modern physics. The unified theory explains the conditions that were present at the beginning of the universe as well as the features of the physical laws of nature. When humans develop the unified field theory, said Hawking, they will "know the mind of God."

As Hawking's physical condition grew worse his intellectual achievements increased. He wrote down his ideas in A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes. It sold over a million copies and was listed as the best-selling nonfiction book for over a year.

In 1993 Hawking wrote Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, which, in addition to his scientific thoughts, contains chapters about Hawking's personal life. He coauthored a book in 1996 with Sir Roger Penrose titled The Nature of Space and Time. Issues discussed in this book include whether the universe has boundaries and if it will continue to expand forever. Hawking says yes to the first question and no to the second, while Penrose argues the opposite. Hawking joined Penrose again the following year in the creation of another book, The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind (1997). In 2002 he was likewise celebrating the publication of The Universe in a Nutshell. Despite decreasing health, Hawking traveled on the traditional book release circuit. People with disabilities look to him as a hero.

Hawking's work in modern cosmology and in theoretical astronomy and physics is widely recognized. He became a fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1974 and five years later was named to a professorial chair at Cambridge University that was once held by Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727). Beyond these honors he has earned a host of honorary degrees, awards, prizes, and lectureships from the major universities and scientific societies of Europe and America. By the end of the twentieth century Stephen Hawking had become one of the best-known scientists in the world. His popularity includes endorsing a wireless Internet connection and speaking to wheelchair-bound youth. He also had a special appearance on the television series Star Trek.

Though very private, it is generally known that Stephen's first marriage ended in 1991. He has three children from that marriage.

When asked about his objectives, Hawking told Zygon in a 1995 interview, "My goal is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

Mlodinow, Leonard

Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D., was a member of the faculty of the Leonard Mlodinow, Ph.D., was a member of the faculty of the California Institute of Technology before moving to HollywooCalifornia Institute of Technology before moving to Hollywood to become a writer for numerous television shows ranging fd to become a writer for numerous television shows ranging from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to "Night Court." He harom "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to "Night Court." He has also developed many bestselling and award-winning educatios also developed many bestselling and award-winning educatio