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Stephen Hawking

Brief Answers to the Big Questions

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Stephen Hawking was recognized as one of the greatest minds of our time and a figure of inspiration after defying his ALS diagnosis at age twenty-one. He is known for both his breakthroughs in theoretical physics as well as his ability to make complex concepts accessible for all, and was beloved for his mischievous sense of humor. At the time of his death, Hawking was working on a final project: a book compiling his answers to the "big" questions that he was so often posed--questions that ranged beyond his academic field. Within these pages, he provides his personal views on our biggest challenges as a human race, and where we, as a planet, are heading next. Each section will be introduced by a leading thinker offering his or her own insight into Professor Hawking's contribution to our understanding. The book will also feature a foreword from Academy Award winning actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything, and an afterword by Hawking's daughter, Lucy Hawking, as well as personal photographs and additional archival material.

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Stephen Hawking was recognized as one of the greatest minds of our time and a figure of inspiration after defying his ALS diagnosis at age twenty-one. He is known for both his breakthroughs in theoretical physics as well as his ability to make complex concepts accessible for all, and was beloved for his mischievous sense of humor. At the time of his death, Hawking was working on a final project: a book compiling his answers to the "big" questions that he was so often posed--questions that ranged beyond his academic field. Within these pages, he provides his personal views on our biggest challenges as a human race, and where we, as a planet, are heading next. Each section will be introduced by a leading thinker offering his or her own insight into Professor Hawking's contribution to our understanding. The book will also feature a foreword from Academy Award winning actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything, and an afterword by Hawking's daughter, Lucy Hawking, as well as personal photographs and additional archival material.#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The world-famous cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time leaves us with his final thoughts on the biggest questions facing humankind.

“Hawking’s parting gift to humanity . . . a book every thinking person worried about humanity’s future should read.”—NPR

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY Forbes The Guardian Wired

Stephen Hawking was the most renowned scientist since Einstein, known both for his groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and for his mischievous sense of humor. He educated millions of readers about the origins of the universe and the nature of black holes, and inspired millions more by defying a terrifying early prognosis of ALS, which originally gave him only two years to live. In later life he could communicate only by using a few facial muscles, but he continued to advance his field and serve as a revered voice on social and humanitarian issues.

Hawking not only unraveled some of the universe’s greatest mysteries but also believed science plays a critical role in fixing problems here on Earth. Now, as we face immense challenges on our planet—including climate change, the threat of nuclear war, and the development of artificial intelligence—he turns his attention to the most urgent issues facing us.

Will humanity survive? Should we colonize space? Does God exist? ​​These are just a few of the questions Hawking addresses in this wide-ranging, passionately argued final book from one of the greatest minds in history.

Featuring a foreword by Eddie Redmayne, who won an Oscar playing Stephen Hawking, an introduction by Nobel Laureate Kip Thorne, and an afterword from Hawking’s daughter, Lucy,  Brief Answers to the Big Questions is a brilliant last message to the world.

Praise for Brief Answers to the Big Questions

“[Hawking is] a symbol of the soaring power of the human mind.” The Washington Post

“Hawking’s final message to readers . . . is a hopeful one.” —CNN

“Brisk, lucid peeks into the future of science and of humanity.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Hawking pulls no punches on subjects like machines taking over, the biggest threat to Earth, and the possibilities of intelligent life in space.” —Quartz

“Effortlessly instructive, absorbing, up to the minute and—where it matters—witty.” —The Guardian

“This beautiful little book is a fitting last twinkle from a new star in the firmament above.” The Telegraph

Specifications

Publisher
Random House Publishing Group
Book Format
Hardcover
Original Languages
English
Number of Pages
256
Author
Stephen Hawking
Title
Brief Answers to the Big Questions
ISBN-13
9781984819192
Publication Date
October, 2018
Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)
8.20 x 5.60 x 0.90 Inches
ISBN-10
1984819194

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

Hawkings final book, ...

Hawking's final book, finished by his family and various scientists. Here he puts in perspective his thoughts on - the need for, or even the existence of, a god - how the universe began - the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe - whether the future can be predicted - what is in black holes - the possibility of time travel - the chances of humans surviving if they stay on Earth - whether we should colonize space - whether artificial intelligence will outsmart us - how we can shape the future The book is an excellent overview of where his work and interests stood when he died earlier this year, and it's well worth working through the sections that might be hard for a layperson. Other reviewers have stated that there are some inaccuracies scattered about, but as a layperson myself, interested in but not particularly educated in physics and cosmology, I wouldn't recognize them or remember them. In other words, I didn't find them a problem (and I have to imagine the errors were not Dr. Hawking's). The most surprising section discussed Hawking's concern about the rise of artificial intelligence. As much as he relied on, and applauded, the benefits of AI and electronic devices, he also had fears: "If computers continue to obey Moore's Law, doubling their speed and memory capacity every eighteen months, the result is that computers are likely to overtake humans in intelligence at some point in the next hundred years. When an artificial intelligence (AI) becomes better than humans at AI design, so that it can recursively improve itself without human help, we may face a intelligence explosion that ultimately results in machines whose intelligence exceeds ours by more than ours exceeds that of snails. When that happens, we will need to ensure that the computers have goals aligned with ours. It's tempting to dismiss the notion of highly intelligence machines as mere science fiction, but this would be a mistake, and potentially our worst mistake ever....One can image such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders and potentially subduing us with weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all." His daughter ends the book with a very sweet description of her life with him as a father and his funeral and burial. Highly recommended.

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

When I was young, the ...

When I was young, the Christmas presents I coveted the most were a Junior Chemistry Set and a telescope. I read as many books on science as I could. Unfortunately, my math skills resulted in little more than adding two-digit numbers. There was nearly zero chance of a career in science. Despite this disappointment, I have never given up reading about the latest discoveries in the cosmos and in physics. Of course, Stephen Hawking became my hero when I read his first book, A Brief History of Time. While my eyes glazed over at the math, I still could not get enough. Stephen died this year despite a crippling disease known as ALS. He was given only a few years to live when he was in his early 20s. He lived far longer than predicted. Now, he has a new book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions. There is something about the "voice" of his writing that is not condescending, but relaxing, gentle, and mesmerizing. The book begins with an introduction and brief biography, which crowned Hawking as "the most renowned scientist since Einstein, known both for his groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology and for his mischievous sense of humor," according to the dust jacket. He even appeared as himself on several episodes of the hysterically funny comedy, The Big-Bang Theory. Hawking starts off with "Why We Must Ask the Big Questions." He wrote, "People have always wanted answers to the big questions. Where did we come from? How did the universe begin? What is the meaning and design behind it all? Is there anyone out there? The creation accounts of the past now seem less relevant and credible. They have been replaced with a variety of what can only be called superstitions, ranging from New Age to Star Trek. But real science can be far stranger than science fiction, and much more satisfying" (3). He starts off boldly with a question as controversial as it is fascinating: IS THERE A GOD? Stephen wrote, "Science is increasingly answering questions that used to be the province of religion. Religion was an early attempt to answer the questions we all ask: why are we here, where did we come from? Long ago, the answer was always the same: gods made everything. The world was a scary place, so even people as tough as the Vikings believed in supernatural beings to make sense of natural of phenomena like lighting, storms or eclipses. Nowadays, science provides better and more consistent answers, but people will always ling to religion, because it gives comfort, and they do not trust or understand science" (25). Of course, Stephen raises another more than interesting question. He wrote, "I would like to speculate a little on the development of life in the universe, and in particular on the development of intelligent life. I shall take this to include the human race, even though much of its behavior throughout history has been pretty stupid and not calculated to aid the survival of the species" (67). Hawking does not pull any punches. His manner is matter of fact, and to the point. Some other mind-bending questions he poses and thoroughly disposes of include: "How Did It All Begin?" "Can we predict the future?" "What is inside a black hole?" and one that worries me, "Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?" These and other questions are challenging to scientists and non-scientists alike. Stephen Hawking will be missed, but, like Einstein, his work has opened new secrets of the universe, and it may take decades to prove some his hypotheses. His latest book, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, is undoubtedly a challenge. But it is well worth the effort to learn something about the universe. 5 stars --Chiron, 10/30/18

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Encouraging readers to...

Encouraging readers to "be brave, be curious, be determined," Stephen Hawking tackles some of humanity's biggest questions. From the existence of God to the beginning of everything, from other intelligent life in the universe to predicting the future, here readers can investigate some of the final thoughts of the world-famous cosmologist. Eminently readable, the passionately argued, thought-provoking comments in Hawking's final book will leave readers with much to consider. Highly recommended. Appended in this Barnes and Noble Special Edition is an Appreciation section including tributes delivered by Lord Rees, Dame Stephanie Shirley, Tom Nabarro, Yuri Milner, and Professor Fay Dowker at London's Westminster Cathedral during the 15 June 2018 memorial service for Stephen Hawking.

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Average Rating:(5.0)out of 5 stars

The world-famous cosmo...

The world-famous cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time leaves us with his final thoughts on the biggest questions facing humankind.

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Average Rating:(4.0)out of 5 stars

Is there any point in...

"Is there any point in hosting a party for time travelers? Would you hope anyone would turn up? Hawking's answer: In 209 I held a party for time travelers in my college, Gonville and Caius in Cambridge, for a film about time travel. To ensure that only genuine time travelers came, I didn't send out the invitation until after the party. On the day of the party, I sat in college, hoping but no one came. I was disappointed, but not surprised, because I had shown that if general relativity is correct and energy density is positive, time travel is not possible. I would have been delighted if one of my assumptions had turned out to be wrong." In "Brief Answers to the Big Questions - The Final Book" by Stephen Hawking. I'm not really asking a question - a lot of what Hawking talks about really isn't even theoretically testable. Theoretical physics does tend in that direction - often it talks about ideas that are not testable yet, and may not be for a long time, or which are mathematical speculation as much as observation. These kinds of ideas get included in "science" because historically they have often born fruit within the limits of science over time. It's part of the process. Some ideas, however, are not even theoretically testable. (I'm not sure why you'd think they were as that is not something anyone who studies theory of science will tell you, or any good scientist.) They really are just mathematical speculations, and as such they are not science at all. Mathematical speculations about the nature of the universe are philosophy, not science. As for science being the only way to advance understanding, science depends on the assumption of a rational universe, which has all kinds of implications outside of science itself. Science certainly doesn't make any claim of that kind. What you are talking about is logical positivism, which is a pretty controversial, some would go so far as to say discredited, philosophical position (not a scientific proposition btw, that being part of the reason it's got problems.) Firstly, theoretical physicists come up with theories, and on the very edge of the subject come up with concepts, but even these concepts like the multiverse are based on sound theoretical reasons. Experimental physicists devise ways in which these theories and concepts can be tested. The ideas are included in science because they are science and the reason they often bear fruit is because they are based on sound principles to begin with. And science assumes nothing other than what it already knows to be true. It works on the principle that the laws of physics are universal. And logical positivism came about to stop confusion of the very sort you seem set on introducing. And no it's not controversial, and it's certainly not discredited, it was part of a process of logical thought which was derived from previous processes and added to by subsequent processes. It's really unbelievable what Stephen Hawking achieved in his life. From formulating an entirely new form of energy, completely theoretically, and getting it named after him, to making the most bizarre objects in the cosmos, black holes, common discussion subjects for lay people. To do all this while suffering a death sentence from his degenerative motor neuron disease is a stupendous achievement. Whether his views on God or AI have any relevance is debatable. His understanding of God is no more or less valid than anyone else's, and his predictions on AI are pure speculation. NB: Closed Time-like Curves = Time Travel.

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