Tag Archives: Universe

What do Hawking, Bryson, Lloyd have in common?

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What do Hawking, Bryson, Lloyd have in common? From their biographies, it would appear that they have nothing in common at all.  Except that they all call the UK their home ( Bryson was born in America, but mostly stayed in UK), and both Bill Bryson and Christopher Lloyd were successful journalists at some point in their lives.

STEPHEN HAWKING is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a lifetime member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States.  Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge between 1979 and 2009.

BILL BRYSON does not have such an illustrious academic background, having initially dropped out of university to go backpacking and only finished his formal college degree circa 1975. But nevertheless, his writings and various books showed a complete mastery of the language and the unique ability to render arcane subjects into a comprehensible read for ordinary folks like me.  He excelled in his career as a journalist par excellent, rising to chief copy editor of the business section of The Times and then deputy national news editor of the business section of The Independent. In 2005 Bryson was appointed chancellor of University of Dunham.

CHRISTOPHER LLOYD has had a broad and comprehensive career both as a journalist, writer and as a general manager in the education business. After graduating from Peterhouse, Cambridge in 1991 with two scholarships and a double first-class degree in History, he became a graduate trainee journalist on The Sunday Times newspaper and was trained at the City University where he gained a diploma in newspaper journalism . Christopher Lloyd now divides his time between writing books and delivering interactive lectures / workshops to schools, societies, literary festivals and other organisations.

So what do they have in common? Or more correctly, what do the three books,  A Brief History of Time (S. Hawking),  A  Short History of Nearly Everything (B. Bryson), and What on Earth Happened? (C. Lloyd) have in common?

All three of them start with the Big Bang, the story of how our known Universe began; from a singularity of infinite mass that “exploded” into an expanding Universe that we know today. That’s the common ground for all three books.

While ABHOT went on to  describe the concepts of Space-Time, Black Holes, Worm Holes, Time Travel and the possible Unification of Physics, ASHONE describes our lonely Earth and Life and finally how we came to be.  WOEH takes it further from there and goes on to describe our endeavours leading to the eventual “fates of human civilisations and the natural world fused into a global whole.”

bryson360x480Of the three books, ASHONE describes the Big Bang, the formation of the Universe, the Solar System and gentle introduction to quantum mechanics, the best, in a highly readable and comprehensible manner. In 2004 Bryson won the prestigious Aventis Prize for best general science book with A Short History of Nearly Everything. In 2005, the book won the EU Descartes Prize for science communication.

hawking360x480On the other hand, ABHOT has sold more than 10 million copies. It was also on the London Sunday Times best-seller list for more than four years. ABHOT remains a “must-read” for any non-physicist who wishes to acquaint himself/herself with the origins of our Universe and all the peculiarities of quantum mechanics with its unusual ensemble of quarks, mesons, bosons and fermions (in his follow-up books, “The Universe in a Nutshell” and “The Grand Design” with Leonard Mlodinow).

lloyd360x480WOEH continues the story by painting the big picture of the Universe, Earth,  Nature, Life and human civilisations  to present-day. It is written in such a way that you can jump  in at  any point. In the end, as the big picture unfurls, you will see the connecting together of the dots of the past giving them meaning and making them memorable through visualization, context, cause and effect.  In 1994 Christopher Lloyd won the Texaco award for the Science Journalist of the Year.

“The oldest books are only just out to those who have not read them.”  – Samuel Butler