The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Physical Universe Hardcover – Aug 24 2004
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If Albert Einstein were alive, he would have a copy of The Road to Reality on his bookshelf. So would Isaac Newton. This may be the most complete mathematical explanation of the universe yet published, and Roger Penrose richly deserves the accolades he will receive for it. That said, let us be perfectly clear: this is not an easy book to read. The number of people in the world who can understand everything in it could probably take a taxi together to Penrose's next lecture. Still, math-friendly readers looking for a substantial and possibly even thrillingly difficult intellectual experience should pick up a copy (carefully--it's over a thousand pages long and weighs nearly 4 pounds) and start at the beginning, where Penrose sets out his purpose: to describe "the search for the underlying principles that govern the behavior of our universe." Beginning with the deceptively simple geometry of Pythagoras and the Greeks, Penrose guides readers through the fundamentals--the incontrovertible bricks that hold up the fanciful mathematical structures of later chapters. From such theoretical delights as complex-number calculus, Riemann surfaces, and Clifford bundles, the tour takes us quickly on to the nature of spacetime. The bulk of the book is then devoted to quantum physics, cosmological theories (including Penrose's favored ideas about string theory and universal inflation), and what we know about how the universe is held together. For physicists, mathematicians, and advanced students, The Road to Reality is an essential field guide to the universe. For enthusiastic amateurs, the book is a project to tackle a bit at a time, one with unimaginable intellectual rewards. --Therese Littleton
From Publishers Weekly
At first, this hefty new tome from Oxford physicist Penrose (The Emperor's NewMind) looks suspiciously like a textbook, complete with hundreds of diagrams and pages full of mathematical notation. On a closer reading, however, one discovers that the book is something entirely different and far more remarkable. Unlike a textbook, the purpose of which is purely to impart information, this volume is written to explore the beautiful and elegant connection between mathematics and the physical world. Penrose spends the first third of his book walking us through a seminar in high-level mathematics, but only so he can present modern physics on its own terms, without resorting to analogies or simplifications (as he explains in his preface, "in modern physics, one cannot avoid facing up to the subtleties of much sophisticated mathematics"). Those who work their way through these initial chapters will find themselves rewarded with a deep and sophisticated tour of the past and present of modern physics. Penrose transcends the constraints of the popular science genre with a unique combination of respect for the complexity of the material and respect for the abilities of his readers. This book sometimes begs comparison with Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and while Penrose's vibrantly challenging volume deserves similar success, it will also likely lie unfinished on as many bookshelves as Hawking's. For those hardy readers willing to invest their time and mental energies, however, there are few books more deserving of the effort. 390 illus. (Feb. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book is bringing many math and physics ideas into focus that were previously blurry for me. It covers a lot of road, and if you have a good math and physics background this... Read morePublished on Aug. 29 2011 by Chris
This book is a weighty tome - physically and mentally. Nonetheless, it is worth the effort and perseverance necessary to get through it. Read morePublished on April 22 2010 by Laurence Lazarus
It should made mandatory to all teachers to read this book. I mean all teachers, from first grade to university!Published on Dec 28 2009 by Wilbert Bruegger
What can you say about a huge tome that takes you from counting and adding right into modern theoretical physics? Whoa, what a trip. Read morePublished on Sept. 4 2008 by Reality Gazer
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