The Grand Design (2010), by Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow


Here are some crucial passages from this short book:

“…scientists define the habitable zone (in the cosmos) as the narrow region around the star in which temperatures are such that liquid water can exist. The habitable zone is sometimes called the ‘Goldilocks zone,’ because the requirement that liquid water exist means that, like Goldilocks, the development of intelligent life requires that planetary temperatures be ‘just right.’ The habitable zone in our solar system…is tiny. Fortunately for those of us who are intelligent life-forms, the earth fell within it.”

“The many improbable occurrences that conspired to enable our existence, and our world’s human-friendly design….”

“It could be that the physicist’s traditional expectation of a single theory of nature is untenable, and there exists no single formulation. (One fundamental current theory is) M-theory. …The laws of M-theory…allow for different universes with different apparent laws….M-theory has solutions that allow for many different internal spaces, perhaps as many as ten to the five hundred, which means that it allows for ten to the five hundred different universes, each with its own laws. To get an idea of how many that is, think about this: If some being could analyze the laws predicted for each of these universes in just one millisecond and had started working on it at the big bang, at present that being would have studied just ten to the twenty of them.”

So:  in The Grand Design, the grand explanation of us and all around and beyond us is grand beyond anything we can imagine with our accidental minds, certainly including the old-time mythic supernatural, until we see that the only accounting lies at a scale humans cannot grasp, a scale that through an accidental mind darkly we attempt to tame with mathematics, especially of the probable, of necessity in simpleminded fashion but perhaps also elegantly. We admit the enormous scale because what we know of the observable and inferred and imagined immediate neighborhood of the cosmos–even as far-flung and dynamic as that comparatively small place may be according to what the Hubble and the SuperCollider allow us to observe/infer–tells us what a weird, even almost unlikely, happenstance are we and our Goldilocks refuge, that refuge one which must imply an inconceivably bigger “multiverse” where all the countless other (and almost assuredly, it seems) lifeless “spaces” must be if we are to make any sense of why we are here: we must be a tiny, tiny, tiny probability amidst a necessary vastitude of others if we are to “explain” ourselves.

We may well be the only ones–and imperfect, near blind ones at that– knowledgeable of this, anywhere. (Unimaginable scale does not = other intelligent beings who know, so say wise ones.) Which eminently and simply stands to reason.

In my withered, cracked nutshell, this seems to me to be the essential news brought by Hawking and Mlodinow and, despite the interior disputes among them and colleagues, much of modern cosmology.

Is physics likely to change what we call in curricula “The History of Consciousness”?

I wouldn’t be surprised, depending on how long we stick around.

“Consciousness” in history produces myths.

Post M-theory Myth (just a stab at it; we might as well have some fun after we finish with the above news):


Your straits seemingly Homo sapiens’ direst ever,
Still have one hope of a higher forever:
Which is to transform yourselves!
To become an arrested population of immortal idealists,
Space-adrift microbes
Free at last of imperatives such as
Social Organization,
And especially Reproduction,
Here on what you once called Precious Earth and now name Preventive Earth,
So as each to start living anew in beatific privacy:
Hence ever to be
Joyful Isolates,
Happy Solitaires,
Nananium Craniums,
Engrossed Asocials,
Gravityless Ageless,
Uncaged Angels,
Exhalted Loners!
In short:
Independent Superminds
In a Psycho (and Physiological) Anarchy!
An aesthetic state of self(ves).


You’ll be a newfangled nananium psyche, hungering only for an Abstract Inspired Condition, your innovative idealizing form designed to live inside a tiny floating space capsule (not Noah’s crude wooden-roofed “flood Ark” but your own minuscule Cosmos-proofed “rainy-day cart”), suffering not Rene Descartes’ unfactual duplicity, but enjoying an actual beneficial duality, a truly new psychology, a split personality: a lair of two mutually unaware kin: a pair of fly-in-ease twins: to wit, you’ll be designed to be a super intelligent being with simultaneously a double identity! (Obviously an emergency compromise between old oppositions in philosophy.) Namely, you will now be: (1) an Inner Creator (I.C.) innovating freely in the Beautifully Engaging Eternal Higher Ideal; and at the same time: (2) an Outer Navigator (O.N.) safekeeping this lucky I.C. in the Stupidly Dangerous External Dire Real.


In short:
No longer will your life be Dust to Dust!
And neither, either, Must you Rust!
For the New Happily Divorced You,
The Benignly Schizoid You,
Two old adages will now ensue:
(1) Never again the twain shall meet;
(2) Age before beau-


I.C.’ll be in good hands in all states
Of Stupid Reality:
Meteor Shower and Comet Power;
Big Bang and Big Collapse;
Or, if you will,
Big Crunch and Big Chill
(the last eventual-
[after merely 10 to the 100 years]
A Universe of Decay to Nil,
I.e., a place of radiation to fill
The Void
Plus maybe a few pro and con trons
And trinos
And hence now only a perverse General Still);
Not to overlook the perilous reverse
Of being sucked into a neighboring universe.


Ah, the question of specifically what I.C.’ll do with itself–THE QUESTION–has everything to do with whether infinity is a Platonic conceit or endlessly engrossing. We’ll need to have explored a math opus for that vital matter. ‘Nother time.