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The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Physical Universe Hardcover – Aug 24 2004


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Hardcover, Aug 24 2004
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1000 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (Aug. 24 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224044478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224044479
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 15.4 x 6.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,008,777 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Gray on May 23 2009
Format: Paperback
Essentially, this book will appeal to two types of people: 1) those with backgrounds in mathematics/physics, and 2) those mathematics/physics enthusiasts who regularly grumble when popular science books leave OUT the equations. Belonging to the latter group, I decided to take the plunge and buy that Professor Penrose had pretty much summed up the entire idea behind the mathematical world in something the size of a phonebook. Really, it wasn't just so I could flash it about, and claim that it was bigger than any other guy's reading material-- I had a genuine curiosity, and buggeringly little formal education in the matter.

And, oh, Penrose delivers. Depending on how comfortable you are, you might find it a leisure read, or something akin to climbing Kilimanjaro. Still, Penrose provides the mathematical Sherpas for you, and tosses the odd brain-warping concept your way. It comes off as a gradual ascent into the heady depths of wonderfully satisfying knowledge, and is a true gem for the curious. If you had taken "A Brief History of Time", and expanded it to include -everything- else in the world of mathematical physics (plus equations), you have a rough idea as to how The Road to Reality works. Mathematical awakenings indeed! A thorough reading of Road to Reality (and subsequent re-readings to realize just what the hell you missed) is a long-overdue step for all fans (both of them) of the Pop-Physics/Math genre.

And if nothing else, you can practically observe its intense mass pull things towards it. It's really neat.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. Czobel on Dec 24 2008
Format: Paperback
On occasion, the task of judging the quality of a book is made easy by comparing it against the explicitly stated intent of the author. Penrose comes right to the point in the first sentences of the Preface. He writes, "The purpose of this book is to convey to the reader some feeling for ... the search for the underlying principles that govern the behaviour of our universe." Note that it is the "search" that he proposes to shed light on more than merely the underlying principles. This book is as much about the "Road" as the "Reality". With that in mind, I feel Penrose has made a magnificent attempt at conveying the feeling for this quest.
The reader who is looking for a book where the author will do all the heavy lifting in removing the veils of mystery to expose some absolute, final principles underlying reality will be sorely disappointed. Penrose fully expects the reader to share in the labour by first gaining understanding, to some extent at least, of the abstract mathematics which is an unavoidable component of insight into the leading edge physics he surveys. And for all this effort, the reader will not find some absolute principles of reality laid bare at the end, only an honest assessment, from a distinguished and clearly passionate practitioner, of a variety of approaches that may lead to deeper insights into the current dilemma in physics, that is, an overarching theory encompassing the immiscible quantum and relativistic viewpoints. Here is where the "road" analogy is very appropriate as we have come to a fork in the road where both paths appear to lead to "reality" and must therefore reconverge somewhere. Penrose is meticulously forthright in not being content to simply beat the drum for his favoured approach to this dilemma, namely twistor theory.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leland Mcinnes on Feb. 4 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Road to Reality is an excellent book which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Having said that, I am a little surprised that it is a bestseller, and will readily admit that it is not a book for everyone. Unlike many of the writers of books on popular physics Penrose is not willing to hand-wave, nor shirk the mathematics required to present this sort of material in a detailed way. That means that the book is steeped in quite abstract mathematics, most of which needs to be solidly grasped before one can proceed. The mathematics is built up in the first half of the book, and once the mathematical machinery is in place it is applied to the problem of modern physics. This makes the book quite heavy going for anyone with a relatively light mathematical background - it is not unapproachable, since all the required mathematics is explained in the book, but it will be more of a long term project, with each chapter having to be fully digested, than a light read. The benefit of this is that, with the formalism properly developed, modern physics can be properly and fully explained in detail rather than glossed over with a series of "gee-whiz" metaphors. If you want to actually understand (rather than be "entertained by") modern physics then The Road to Reality provides and excellent, approachable, book that takes the reader from elementary mathematics to the cutting edge of research.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Peter Brassel on Sept. 15 2004
Format: Hardcover
Despite the previous work of Roger Penrose concerning my favourite topic (neuroscience, mind-brain issues, consciousness, etc.), this is the first book of his that I have read (not quite finished yet, not that fast !). I am quite impressed overall, wanting a well discussed introduction to some of the primary mathematics and physics that have led to our current time. This, Roger Penrose functionally provides, though at times some of his discussion could be clearer. He has made a sensible and successful effort to write at a number of different levels so that those with no mathematical background can read prose for content and ideas, and those with significant previous knowledge and ability can work on proofs of various arguments, etc. This is certainly a weighty set of chapters, and I cannot comment on the appropriateness of some of the latter chapters vis a vis current arguments and the positions held by other scientists, but definitely, this is one of the most significant and important books of its type to arrive on the scene and with some significant effort on the part of the reader, should repay hansomely!
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