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The Road To Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe Paperback – 1 Jan 2005

3.6 out of 5 stars 106 customer reviews

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Frequently bought together

  • The Road To Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe
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  • Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
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  • Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe
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Product details

  • Paperback: 1136 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099440687
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099440680
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 5.8 x 23.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

"Penrose is truly one of the world's leading mathematical physicists. Genuinely magnificent and stimulating" (Scotland on Sunday)

"Science needs more people like Penrose, willing and able to point out the flaws in fashionable models from a position of authority, and to signpost alternative roads to follow" (Independent)

"This is a tour de force that is unlikely to be bettered this decade" (Financial Times)

Book Description

'A truly remarkable book...this is just the sort of book that could inspire mathematical awakenings' - Sunday Times

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Exactly what I was looking for after reading many lightweight introductions to Quantum Mechanics. The maths is formidable but worth working through and well explained. The subject is so interesting and diverse. It is the kind of book you need to work through a couple of times gaining further understanding on each pass-through, not for bed time reading!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Baffled. I've read a lot of popular science, understood a great deal of it. Needless to say I imagine this book to be beyond most laymen.
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Unless your IQ is commensurate with the number of pages in the book (1100), do not read cover to cover. The "meat" is in chapters 17 to 34, so omit the exercises and chapters 2 to 16 for a first reading, accept that many terms will be unfamiliar but that everything which is presented can be verified. When you have three months to spare, re-read the book fully. Chapters 2 to 16 gradually introduce the mathematical concepts used, and you can verify everything presented in the rest of the book.

The book is similar to a mystery story with the last chapter removed, and you desperately seek that final chapter i.e. the book is well-titled "The Road (emphasised) to Reality": it describes the journey towards an understanding of the Universe, but it fails to provide a Theory of Everything.

Penrose gives more hints about what cannot constitute a Theory of Everything than what can. String theory, of ten or eleven dimensions, is a definite non-starter (Penrose is irritating in the number of times he tells us this.), and current quantum field theory must give way to something more like twistor theory in order to account for non-local interactions (and there is a tantalising suggestion that, by explaining wave-function collapse, it could partly demystify consciousness). Einstein's gravitational theory, however, is acceptable, and - good news for those of us who had difficulty comprehending 26 dimensions - four dimensions are the flavour of the month.

This is a heavy book, in both senses of the word, but if your heroes are Einstein, Dirac, Richard Feynman, and Stephen Hawking then buy it. If they aren't, buy it anyway - they will be.
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Format: Paperback
When choosing the rating for this book I doubted between 5 and 1 stars. Why?

Well even for someone with some mathematical background (although it's been quite some time ago) this book is tough. If you're not mathematically minded you're better of with a book with less formula's and numerical examples. Although Penrose states many times one can just read "over" the more difficult parts and still get the gist of the story, I tend to disagree. His is a beautiful treaty on the most important mathematical theories that we have at the moment and that are used in physics or more specifically cosmology. He builds a well thought out "story" that should give the reader a thorough insight in the building blocks of physical theories. If you skip over the mathematical explanations you miss the basis upon which the rest of the book is leaning. I think some understanding (more then just basic) is necessary to appreciate the wonders of cosmology, at least as presented in this book.

If on the other hand you have a firm grip on maths and are not afraid to extend this knowledge, then Penrose will keep you busy for many weeks and lets you peek at the wonders of cosmology.

So depending on your scientific background and appetite for maths, this is a great adventure or frustrating Herculean task.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a weighty tome - physically and mentally. Nonetheless, it is worth the effort and perseverance necessary to get through it. For those who have no post-secondary training in mathematics, some of the content can be challenging. A review of some of some of the reviews already presented suggests that Chapter 7 is where the challenge begins. "Complex-Number Calculus" is not something we think about on a daily basis. Yet it is important to understand this concept, before truly digesting the rest of this book.

There are some valid criticisms: Some will find this book too superficial in its treatment of mathematics and some will find that it is too mathematical. For example, thirty or so pages of basic calculus barely scratches the surface of that subject and many of his explanations of complex numbers, logarithms, Riemann surfaces, etc. while prosaic, could have been supported with broader explanations and some examples.

On the other side of the coin, it is to his credit that Mr Penrose does assume that some of his readers may freeze up at the thought of Mathematics or Physics. He therefore does try to make both subjects interesting for those less scientifically inclined and, in doing so, not get too rigorous. In his Preface, he recommends various ways to read and attempt to understand this book. He even suggests a way to read the book while skipping over the mathematical formulae. However, if you really want to enjoy the full essence of this book it would be better to understand the math.

A few suggestions which I think will help. The Bibliography, which incidentally occupies 35 pages, provides additional reference material.
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