This is how I imagine Physics for Dummies reads. The material in this book was probably more interesting in the 80’s when the original version came out, mostly because people were less knowledgeable back then. It would certainly be more interesting to someone who knows nothing about physics, these days however, most people are pretty well aware of all the concepts detailed in this book. Aspects of physics that the public is generally less aware of, such as quantum theory and m-theory, receive very little attention.
Still, there is a lot that can be said on the subjects that are covered in this book, such as general relativity and black holes; but since A Briefer History of Time mostly focuses on hard factual information, and is written for laypeople, it doesn’t have much to say even on these subjects that most didn’t already learn from Bill Nye The Science Guy.
There is also much mention of “God” in the book. Since Stephen Hawking doesn’t believe in such silliness, I can only assume this was put in for the sake of the laypeople. Regardless of why it’s there, it’s moderately distracting–it’s like reading a book on the earth’s sun and the author keeps offering Helios as an explanation for its behavior.
Unfortunately the most interesting topics, like string theory and quantum mechanics have the least coverage. Probably because Hawking’s specialty is large scale physics, not quantum mechanics. And string theory is still too theoretical to be covered in detail in a fact-oriented book such as this.
My low opinion of the usefulness of this book is in no way a criticism of Stephen Hawking, who as a physicist gets a 5/5 star rating from me any day. A Briefer History of Time is simply too basic and elemental a book to be useful to anyone who already has a basic understanding of its concepts.
Admittedly the general population’s ignorance knows few bounds, and undoubtedly Hawking’s books have helped push up the intelligence level of many people–so this book does contribute to society. But as someone with even basic computer knowledge won’t gain anything from reading PCs for Dummies, neither will someone with basic physics knowledge gain anything from reading A Briefer History of Time.