Monday, May 31, 2010

Penrose's Universe

I have missed posting for several days due to a visit from my daughter and grandson. As always on Memorial Day, I have taken a long moment to remember and salute those who sacrificed themselves for our benefit. I do not intend to speak on the subject for there is nothing I can say that is worthy of the honor they have earned.

Meanwhile I thought to do something different, so this is a book review. Actually it does not have all the detail of a formal review, but rather a report of the impression the book made on me. The book is by Roger Penrose and is titled “The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe”.

In one sense, this review feels like cheating since I haven’t finished reading the book. In another sense, it is time to speak out since I think I have gotten the feel of it. Penrose has completed his tour de force, and it may be the best of its kind, once we agree on what its kind is. He covers the history, mathematics, and philosophy of physics; and does so brilliantly with sharp comments and outstanding graphics.

My reason for speaking now is that it may take several passes to finish, and parts I will never understand. Most of the negatives given for the book are for the failure to meet expectations. It is not popular science since it contains too much mathematics and detail. It is not the mathematics of physics, for even with the mathematics it doesn’t contain enough proofs. It is not a physics textbook for there is way too much material for any one course (or even a degree).

What it is though; is a powerful view into the universe of physics and mathematics for an intelligent and patient visitor. While I don’t expect in my lifetime to have the time to understand it all, Penrose once again causes me to expand my horizon, grasp some things that were beyond me before, and improve my enjoyment of that universe. For a similarly inclined reader, I cannot recommend it too highly.

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