Hawking heads for a briefer battle

May 27, 2005

A literary clash of the time lords will be in the offing in September when Stephen Hawking's new work hits the book shops.

Professor Hawking's book, co-authored with the former Star Trek writer Leonard Mlodinow, is A Briefer History of Time - a pithier and simpler version of his 1988 bestseller.

The problem is that there is already a "pop science" book of the same name.

And what's more, it is briefer than the offering from Professor Hawking, who is Lucasian professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.

Eric Schulman, an American astronomer, published his account of the Earth's evolution "from the Big Bang to the Big Mac" under the title A Briefer History of Time in 1999.

And, in what raises the unlikely prospect of one man boasting to another that "mine's shorter than yours", Professor Schulman's work runs to a mere 171 pages, compared with Professor Hawking's 176.

The two titles can already be found side by side on the Amazon website - Professor Schulman's complete with reviews, Professor Hawking's ready for pre-publication orders.

A spokesman for Bantam Books, which is publishing the Hawking-Mlodinow book, said: "The other book was published six years ago, and Professor Hawking is an international figure - so the editor was fine with it. So no change. The editor was aware of the other book, but I don't know whether Professor Hawking was."

Professor Schulman was unavailable for comment.

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