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Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe [Hardcover]

Sir Roger Penrose
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
RRP: 25.00
Price: 21.79 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

23 Sep 2010

* Roger Penrose's groundbreaking and bestselling The Road to Reality provided a comprehensive yet readable guide to our present understanding of the laws that are currently believed to govern our universe. In Cycles of Time, he moves far beyond this to develop a completely new perspective on cosmology, providing a quite unexpected answer to the often-asked question, 'what came before the Big Bang?'

* The two key ideas underlying this novel proposal are a penetrating analysis the Second Law of thermodynamics - according to which the 'randomness' of our world is continually increasing - and a thorough examination of the light-cone geometry of space-time. Penrose is able to combine these two central themes to show how the expected ultimate fate of our accelerating, expanding universe can actually be reinterpreted as the 'Big Bang' of a new one.

* On the way, many other basic ingredients are presented, and their roles discussed in detail, though without any complex mathematical formulae (these all being banished to the appendices). Various standard and non-standard cosmological models are presented, as is the fundamental and ubiquitous role of the cosmic microwave background. Also crucial to the discussion are the huge black holes lying in galactic centres, and their eventual disappearance via the mysterious process of Hawking evaporation.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head; Reprint edition (23 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224080369
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224080361
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 16.5 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 203,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A genuinely new idea about the origins of the universe [...] must be taken seriously (Scotsman)

As uncondescending in style as his previous books...many pleasures to be had along the way (Sunday Times)

Thought-provoking, edifying (Sky At Night Magazine)

Cycles of Time can be highly recommended as an example of how cosmologists are now thinking the unthinkable (Literary Review)

Destined to be another bestseller (Manjit Kumar, Author Of Quantum Guardian)

Book Description

In his first book since the bestselling The Road to Reality, one of our most distinguished scientists offers a radical new theory of the origin, and ultimate end, of the Universe.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
189 of 191 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A mathematical origin to the universe? 24 Sep 2010
Many who wish to buy this book will be familiar with the other works of Professor Roger Penrose (such as The Road to Reality). Some will be curious to learn about a new theory of the origin of the Universe. This book presents a radical new idea which Penrose has been developing in the past few years on the Big Bang: essentially the idea is that there was a pre-Big Bang era and there will be a post-Big Crunch era too.

So one could review both the book and the idea itself. Firstly some will worry about the level of mathematics presented in this book. In the main chapters there are equations such as S = k log V - Boltzmann's Equation. If you are not comfortable with this, then maybe you will not get the most from the book. However if you are comfortable with this and similar physics equations and numbers then the first section of the book is readable. Of course there are plenty of diagrams too. There is some hard maths however and this has been relegated to the Appendix (30 pages). This maths is very advanced and another of Penrose's technical books (Penrose and Rindler Volume 2) would be needed to understand it fully - so that is only for the experts. Given that the reader wont be learning this material in the present book it shows that there is some more complex machinery behind the scenes needed to comprehend the full idea.

In the first section the book returns to an old concern of Penrose namely the entropy present in the early universe: less than today - but why so much less? The chapter then focusses in on the Big Bang described using "Conformal Diagrams". The key on page 115 is important for reading these diagrams.

Part 3 introduces the new idea called Conformal Cyclic Cosmology (CCC).
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48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mathematical aptitude required! 25 Oct 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read Hawking's "The Grand Design" about two weeks before picking this up. I'd been quite disappointed with that one, as I felt it to be so dumbed down that the arguments lost cohesion and descended into a rather confused and impregnable morass. What a refreshing contrast Roger Penrose's book has been! The explanations are clear with good examples and Roger builds his arguments logically and coherently. I never knew the second law of thermodynamics was so interesting! It's not for the faint-hearted though - the mathematics in this book are essential to make sense of it, and I suspect they will be hard going for anyone without exposure beyond A-level. I think this point will be devisive. But personally, I enjoyed the maths and it was nice to finally understand why Hawking was conjecturing about why we don't remember the future in "A Brief History of Time"!
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Before" the Big Bang? Understanding entropy. 2 Jan 2011
After being delighted with Penrose's "Road to Reality" (2004) I couldn't wait to see what he would say about cosmology. Penrose's whole argument revolves around the consideration of the constraints put on cosmological theories by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, constraints he hinted at in the "Road to Reality".

These constraints he elaborates in a deep discussion of the nature of entropy, and what is so very special about the Big Bang. The book has three parts, "The Second Law and its Underlying Mystery", "The Oddly Special Nature of the Big Bang"; and the speculative proposal he concludes with : "Conformal Cyclic Cosmology".

Penrose takes no hostages : this is a deeply mathematical book, as is "The Road to Reality". He is a Platonist, he believes there is something there to tell us about! The first two sections of the book are "standard physics", But, as Seth Lloyd said in his Physics World review of the previous book, "When he represents the well established, nailed-down parts of mathematics and physics, Penrose is a joy to read. ... Penrose's treatment is ... deep; he is witty; he provides elegant insights." So his first section, which covers Bolzmann's definition of entropy, Liouville's Theorem, and similar matters, manages to explain the gigantic nature of phase space, the remarkable fact that although the equations of motion are symmetrical with time the path taken though phase space is definitely time-asymmetrical, and the robustness of the definition of entropy despite its apparent subjectivity in the details of counting states in phase space; all in only 45 rather small pages.

The second section now takes this "elementary" treatment and systematically applies it at a cosmological scale.
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137 of 143 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Frustrating Read 8 Oct 2010
By Stewart
Before reading this review, keep in mind this is a review of the book and how well it reads rather than the science of the book:

If like me you are an avid reader of popular science and feel the best way to communicate complex theories to the layman is through clever analogies, then I would be careful before delving into this book. What Penrose sets up is a bewildering array of algebraic equations and somewhat vague diagrams with little warning beforehand. The vagueness does not come about because Penrose doesn't know what he's talking about -he clearly does- but rather that as a reader, to understand his descriptions on an intuitive level, you need to have some familiarity and grounding in algebra. For those that do, I'm sure this book will provide an interesting, if still challenging, read. For those, like me, who have banished all algebra since school, it proves very hard to grasp onto any narrative. It's very hard to understand exactly where Penrose is taking his argument since it's clearly important to understand the relevance of the countless equations and diagrams he provides. Blink, and you'll miss the point of the whole book.

The main problem is that Penrose assumes far too much on the part of the reader. On the inside of the book cover, the words 'basic ingredients are introduced...without any complex mathematical formulae' sting like salt to a wound. It's a horribly misleading introduction once you've become a little familiar with the pages thereafter. 'Cycles of Time' is seemingly written as though intended for his peers rather than the general public, and as someone who has a keen interest but limited knowledge in physics, this is very frustrating.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is not for a layman
Not for the layman. It introduces concepts but then delves deep into mathematical equations, I would recommend it for professional scientists or students doing physics or maths but... Read more
Published 1 day ago by Mr. T. Spencer
4.0 out of 5 stars for amateurs like me it would have been helpful to have a ...
for amateurs like me it would have been helpful to have a list of concepts with explanations at the end of the book.Anyway, fascinating
Published 4 days ago by Edmond Alyanakian
3.0 out of 5 stars The subject matter is of great interest to me but I struggled with...
A tough read. The subject matter is of great interest to me but I struggled with this one even though I know something about the subject. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Blaise F. Egan
3.0 out of 5 stars Cycles of Time : an Extraordinary Ne View of the Universe
I so admire Sir Roger Penrose, his depth of thought and understanding leaves me weak and feeling very stupid. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mt Morley
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
Great read if you enjoy physics, quite intense in places not for laymen, I had to re-read some chapters to get a full understanding - But it was worth the effort, think I will buy... Read more
Published 7 months ago by MR PD BRIDGEMAN
2.0 out of 5 stars Too technical
The layman drowns in mathematics. No doubt brilliant in content, but totally unreadable for the non-specialist. Minimum requirement, graudate degree in physics and mathematics
Published 7 months ago by Cefaloni
5.0 out of 5 stars Roger Penrose (Style)
The book appears to be a follow up book to the 'Road to Reality' and a non-mathematician would find it hard to follow unless he or she was already familiar with that book. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Mr P West
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what I needed.
Getting these "specialist" books is vital and this was as I hoped. I will be using this again and again. Thanks
Published 14 months ago by Liam P Bradley
3.0 out of 5 stars Is it convincing? Not sure but it could be.
My maths is not strong enough, nor is my brain, to follow all the reasoning. But i think I understood the proposal of a big bang following a big crunch, with some modifications... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Book worm UK
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not for the faint hearted.
A good explanation of modern physics, but tough going, I thought. I found I had to read some sections several times and I still haven't understood it all.
Published 16 months ago by Pat
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