A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
Stephen W. Hawking
Our Picture of the Universe
Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis: you can never prove it.
No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory... Each time new experiments are observed to agree with the predictions the theory survives, and our confidence in it is increased; but if ever a new observation is found to disagree, we have to abandon or modify the theory.
Today scientists describe the universe in terms of two basic partial theories - the general theory of relativity and quantum mechanics... The general theory of relativity describes the force of gravity and the large-scale structure of the universe, that is, the structure on scales from only a few miles to as large as a million million million million (1 with twenty-four zeros after it) miles, the size of the observable universe. Quantum mechanics, on the other hands, deals with phenomena on extremely small scales, such as a millionth of a millionth of an inch. Unfortunately, however, these two theories are known to be inconsistent with each other - they cannot both be correct.
The discovery of a complete unified theory, therefore, may not aid the survival of our species. It may not even affect our life-style. But ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity's deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.
Space and Time In addition to his laws of motion, Newton discovered a law to describe the force of gravity, which states that every body attracts every other body with a force that is proportional to the mass of each body. Thus the force between two bodies would be twice as strong if one of the bodies (say, body A) had its mass doubled. This is what you might expect because one could think of the new body A as being made of two bodies with the original mass.
Each would attract body B with the original force. Thus the total force between A and B would be twice the original force. And if, say, one of the bodies had twice the mass, and the other had three times the mass, then the force would be six times as strong. One can now see why all bodies fall at the same rate: a body of twice the weight will have twice the force of gravity pulling it down, bit it will also have twice the mass. According to Newton's second law, these two effects will exactly cancel each other, so the acceleration will be the same in all cases.
if one sets aside for a moment the rotation of the earth and its orbit round the sun, one could say that the earth was at rest and that a train on it was travelling north at ninety miles per hour or that the train was at rest and the earth was moving south at ninety miles per hour.
[James Clerk] Maxwell's equations predicted that there could be wavelike disturbances in the combined electromagnetic field, and that these would travel at a fixed speed, like ripples on a pond. If the wavelength of these waves is a meter or more, they are what we now call radio waves. Shorter wavelengths are known as microwaves (a few centimeters) or infrared (more than a ten thousandth of a centimeter).
Visible light has a wavelength of between only forty and eighty millionths of a centimeter. Even shorter wavelengths are known as ultraviolet, X rays, and gamma rays.
... at 10 percent of the speed of light an object's mass is only 0.5 percent more than normal, while at 90 percent of the speed of light it would be more than twice its normal mass. As an object approaches the speed of light, its mass rises ever more quickly, so it takes more and more energy to speed it up further. It can in fact never reach the speed of light, because by then its mass would have become infinite, and by the equivalence of mass and energy, it would have taken an infinite amount of energy to get it there.
For this reason, any normal object is forever confined by relativity to move at speeds slower than the speed of light. Only light, or other waves that have no intrinsic mass, can move at the speed of light.
... the meter is defined to be the distance travelled by light in 0.000000003335640952 seconds, as measured by a caesium clock. The theory of relativity does, however, force us to change fundamentally our ideas of space and time. We must accept that time if not completely separate from and independent of space, but is combined with it to form an object called space-time.
... we do not know what is happening at the moment farther away in the universe: the light that we see from distant galaxies left them millions of years ago and in the case of the most distant object that we have seen, the light left some eight thousand million years ago. Thus, when we look at the universe, we are seeing it as it was in the past. Bodies like the earth are not made to move on curved orbits by a force called gravity; instead, they follow the nearest thing to a straight path in curved space, which is called a geodesic.
A geodesic is the shortest (or longest) path between two nearby points. The mass of the sun curves space-time in such a way that although the earth follows a straight path in four-dimensional space-time, it appears to us to move along a circular orbit in three-dimensional space.
Light rays too must follow geodesics in space-time... this means that light from a distant star that happened to pass near the sun would be deflected through a small angel, causing the star to appear in a different position to an observer on the earth. The Expanding Universe The nearest star, called Proxima Centauri, is found to be about four light-years away, or about twenty-three million million miles. Most of the other stars that are visible to the naked eye lie within a few hundred light-years of us.
We now know that our galaxy is only one of some hundred thousand million that can be seen using modern telescopes, each galaxy itself containing some hundred thousand million stars... We live in a galaxy that is about one hundred thousand light-years across and is slowly rotating; the stars in its spiral arms orbit around its center about once every several hundred million years.
Stephen W. Hawking
- ^ A Brief History of Time is based on the scientific paper J. B. Hartle, S. W. Hawking (1983). Wave function of the Universe. http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRD/v28/i12/p2960_1. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
- ^ "Hawking's briefer history of time". news.bbc.co.uk. 2001-10-15. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1599719.stm. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
- ^ Hawking, Stephen (1988). A Brief History of Time. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-38016-8.
2. Prof. Stephen H.