A Brief History of Time

A Brief History of Time

First put forward by Sir Isaac Newton, the theory of gravity states that all particles have an attractive gravitational force that draws them together. This operates over long distances, and although it is weak, can build up if enough particles have joined together. This is what sets the earth in orbit around the sun and causes large stars to collapse in on themselves. It is considered one of the four main types of energy.

Gravity Quotes in A Brief History of Time

The A Brief History of Time quotes below are all either spoken by Gravity or refer to Gravity. For each quote, you can also see the other terms and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Bantam edition of A Brief History of Time published in 1988.
Chapter 1 Quotes

As far as Kepler was concerned, elliptical orbits were merely an ad hoc hypothesis, and a rather repugnant one at that, because ellipses were clearly less perfect than circles. […] he could not reconcile them with his idea that the planets were made to orbit the sun by magnetic forces.

Related Characters: Nicolas Copernicus (speaker), Sir Isaac Newton
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other A Brief History of Time quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

It is an interesting reflection on the general climate of thought before the twentieth century that no one had suggested that the universe was expanding or contracting. [...] this may have been due to people’s tendency to believe in eternal truths, as well as the comfort they found in the thought that even though they may grow old and die, the universe is eternal and unchanging.

Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 2 Quotes

The Aristotelian tradition also held that one could work out all the laws that govern the universe by pure thought: it was not necessary to check by observation. So no one until Galileo bothered to see whether bodies of different weight did in fact fall at different speeds.

Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Newton was very worried by this lack of absolute position, or absolute space, as it was called, because it did not accord with his idea of an absolute God. In fact, he refused to accept lack of absolute space, even though it was implied by his laws.

Related Characters: Sir Isaac Newton
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 6 Quotes

The hostility of other scientists, particularly Eddington, his former teacher and the leading authority on the structure of stars, persuaded Chandrasekhar to abandon this line of work […] However, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1983, it was […] for his early work on the limiting mass of cold stars.

Related Symbols: Nobel Prize
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Chapter 8 Quotes

We don’t yet have a complete and consistent theory that combines quantum mechanics and gravity. However, we are fairly certain of some features that such a unified theory should have.

Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Get the entire A Brief History of Time LitChart as a printable PDF.
A brief history of time.pdf.medium

Gravity Term Timeline in A Brief History of Time

The timeline below shows where the term Gravity appears in A Brief History of Time. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...up his ideas about how things move in space and time. His law of universal gravitation suggested everything is attracted to everything else, with the force being stronger when those things... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...all, but very far away and hard to measure. In fact, given his idea of gravity, these stars should all be moving around each other, and at some point should fall... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...that it might be expanding. Instead they toyed with the idea that at great distances gravity could be repulsive, rather than attractive. It allowed the stars to remain in equilibrium. But... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...fire, and water is simple, but cannot make any predictions. By contrast, Newton’s theory of gravity, which is determined by mass and distance, is even simpler, but can accurately predict the... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...theories. For example, Mercury’s movement diverged slightly from predictions made by applying Newton’s law of gravity. Albert Einstein’s slightly different prediction, via his general theory of relativity, matched with what was... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...the whole picture. But, that is how progress has been made so far. For example, gravity depends only on mass, not the content of an object, so we do not need... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...mechanics—both great achievements of the first half of the 20th century. The first relates to gravity and large to really large-scale structures of the universe. The second relates to miniscule matter... (full context)
Chapter 2
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Newton also discovered the law of gravity, which is the idea that every object attracts every other object proportionally to its mass;... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
This law of gravity also states that the force is proportionally smaller the further away the objects are from... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Ignoring gravitational effects, like Einstein and Poincaré did back in 1905, the resulting theory is called the... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
But this theory is inconsistent with Newton's laws on gravity, in which distance is a factor, meaning moving an object would affect the force applied... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The sun's mass and resultant gravitational force curves space-time so that although the earth travels straight in four-dimensional space-time, it looks... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...seems to not take straight paths through three-dimensional space. Light should also be bent by gravity, according to general relativity. Light cones near the sun ought to bend slightly inward, because... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...the higher its frequency (or waves per second). Light loses energy to escape the earth's gravitational field, making its the frequency slow and in turn making it look to an observer... (full context)
Chapter 3
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...should have guessed it, as otherwise the universe would have contracted under the influence of gravity. But as the universe is expanding, this cancels out that gravitational pull. If the universe... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
People could have realized the universe was expanding from Newton's theory of gravity, but everyone at the time seemed set on believing in a static universe. Even Einstein... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Three models obey Friedmann's assumptions, though he only suggested one himself. In the first, gravity can slow and eventually stop the expansion. Finally, the universe will contract again. In the... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...the first model, or theory, the universe is finite, yet does not have a boundary. Gravity bends space around itself, so space is curved, like the surface of the earth. When... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...we need to know the universe's rate of expansion and average density, to determine if gravity will slow or stop the expansion. We know from the Doppler effect that galaxies are... (full context)
Chapter 4
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
Science and Religion Theme Icon
...chips. The only areas of science that not yet been integrated into this theory are gravity and the larger structure of the universe. (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...because it does not include quantum mechanics. This does not lead to inconsistency, though, as gravitational forces are so weak compared to other forces. But gravity would be much stronger in... (full context)
Chapter 5
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
Aristotle thought the universe was made up of earth and water, which tended to sink (gravity), and wind and fire, which tended to rise (levity). He thought matter was continuous, meaning... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...force particles have. They’re observable in the form of “classical” waves, such as light or gravity. Scientists have created four classes of forces for these types of particles, which they hope... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The first class is gravity. Every particle feels gravity, according to its mass and energy. It is also the weakest... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...This affects only electrically-charged particles like electrons, but not gravitons. It is much stronger than gravity, and comes in the form of positive or negative charge. If two charges match, such... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...the last three forces together, though the name doesn’t quite fit as they don’t include gravity. The idea is that at some high energy, the strong nuclear force would be weakened,... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Grand unified theories of these forces have not yet incorporated gravity. But gravity is a weak force and doesn’t factor much on the atomic scale. Yet,... (full context)
Chapter 6
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...In Newton’s time, people argued whether light was a particle or a wave, and how gravity would therefore affect it. Under quantum mechanics, scientists know it is both. Gravity will affect... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...said that any star that was big and dense enough would have such a strong gravitational pull that light could not escape it. We cannot see them, but we should be... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
But one cannot compare light to other matter that gravity drags in, like a cannonball falling back to earth. Light travels at a fixed speed... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...when a large volume of gas begins to collapse in on itself under its own gravity—usually it is mostly hydrogen. The increasing number of atomic collisions taking place as the gas... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...worked out how big a star needed to be to support itself against its own gravity after using up all its fuel. According to the Pauli exclusion principle, matter cannot be... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...faster than everything else. After a certain point, if the star is dense enough, its gravity will outweigh its expanding force. The Chandrasekhar limit states a star one and a half... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...theories couldn’t be proven with technology in his day. Essentially, his work states that stars’ gravitational pull changes light’s path through space-time. Finally, the light is pulled so strongly, it cannot... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...take an infinite time to arrive because it would not be able to escape the gravitational pull. In fact, each previous signal would take longer and longer to arrive, and the... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Because gravity is strongest at the star’s surface, the difference in gravity between the astronaut’s head and... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
General relativity states that moving objects give off gravitational waves, which bend space-time. These waves carry energy away from the object producing them. Slowly,... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...they will be orbiting each other so quickly our current technology would pick up the gravitational waves. (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...there were no black holes in reality. But Penrose and Wheeler said a non-rotating star’s gravitational waves during its collapse would make it spherical. In 1963, Roy Kerr extended this to... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...cannot see seems impossible. But Michell suggested in 1783 we can measure a black hole’s gravitational effects on the material around it. There are examples of systems where stars orbit some... (full context)
Chapter 7
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
This new idea about black hole radiation suggests gravitational collapse is not so final after all. Mass or energy lost into a black hole... (full context)
Chapter 8
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...particles together to form more atoms. In denser than average regions of the universe, the gravitational force of this clumping matter would have slowed expansion. Some regions would stop expanding altogether... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...passed, hydrogen and helium would form into smaller clouds and collapse, due to their own gravity. Contraction would force collisions between atoms, raising the particles’ temperature, starting nuclear fusion reactions. This... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...heat and light. Bigger stars will use up their fuel much quicker to balance their gravitational force, creating carbon and oxygen as they contract again. The central portions of the star... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...give the universe more energy than if the symmetry had broken. This extra energy has anti-gravitational effects due to strong repulsion, acting like Einstein’s cosmological constant. These areas would increasingly expand,... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...All matter has positive energy, and thus repels other matter;  at the same time the gravitational force attracts all matter, and so could be said to be a negatively charged force... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...values in some regions of the early universe.” The energy in those fields would have anti-gravity effects, like a cosmological constant, increasing the rate of expansion. The energy would slowly decrease... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...which involve the break down of scientific law. Really, what singularity theories show is that gravity becomes so strong that we need to return to the quantum level, and use a... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
There is no consistent theory that combines quantum theory and gravity. If there were, it should involve Feynmann’s sum over histories proposal, which states particles move... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Another feature of the unified theory of quantum mechanics and general relativity is that gravity is represented in a curved space-time. Applying the sum over histories to Einstein’s ideas on... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...might be no singularities in imaginary time, undoing Hawking’s earlier work. But, singularity theories showed gravity to be so powerful at these points that it had to be considered on the... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
To unify gravity with quantum mechanics, one must apply imaginary time. Imaginary time is no different from the... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...cosmological arrow, but that is not what we observe. One requires a quantum theory of gravity to know how it all began, rather than guess. (full context)
Chapter 11
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
Previous chapters covered general relativity, incomplete gravity theories,  and the three forces that can be combined in grand unified theories, although these... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...When incorporating the uncertainty principle and general relativity one can either adjust the strength of gravity or the cosmological constant. But this still will not remove all the infinities from the... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
In the 1970s, a possible solution was offered, called supergravity. It combined the graviton, the gravity wave-carrying particle, with other particles with different spin. These... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
...or emission of energy and particles is represented by the merging or division of strings. Gravity passing from the sun to the earth would previously be seen as a graviton passing... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
The Danger of Stubbornness  Theme Icon
In the 1970s Joel Scherk and John Schwarz said string theory could describe gravity, but only if the tension were significantly higher. This would leave most of general relativity’s... (full context)
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
There are also problems with more dimensions. Gravitational forces are increasingly weaker at the same distance with more dimensions at play. This would... (full context)
The Search for a Unifying Theory of the Universe Theme Icon
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...to explore, and they may well find a new layer of particles beyond quarks. But gravity might limit this otherwise infinite series of discoveries as we achieve higher energy production rates.... (full context)
Chapter 12
Human Curiosity and Ingenuity Theme Icon
...to predict events. But, the question comes back round to how these laws were chosen. Gravity has taken prominence in this book because it forms the large-scale structure of the universe,... (full context)