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The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds and the Laws of Physics Paperback – 6 Sep 1990

4.1 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (6 Sept. 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099771705
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099771708
  • Package Dimensions: 23.1 x 15 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,165,813 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

perhaps the most engaging and creative tour of modern physics that has ever been written (Sunday Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Roger Penrose is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their joint contribution to our understanding of the universe.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book stimulating and entertaining in equal measure. It looks at the questions such as -- if we had enough information, we could predict absolutely everything, or not? Is the human mind simply a machine (for example a computer)? Can we actually be transported Star-trek style or not? Are we (including our memories) just a collection of atoms that could be reconstituted?

In answering these questions Penrose embarks on a tour of the mathematical concepts and theories that underpin our understanding of the Universe.

There seems to be much more maths than is really needed, and there is a lot of theory (The book runs to over 500 pages after all). You will also need advanced A level maths to cope (on the basis that I just coped, and that's the level of maths I reached).

Entertaining and enjoyable IF you are interested in Maths. If you are not, stay away.
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Format: Paperback
At First glance, the topics covered by Roger Penrose may seem unconnected, but incredibly, he manages to connect them seamlessly, and then reaches astounding conclusions about the implications for any theory of everything or any artificial intelligence. On the way, Penrose covers such diverse topics as Turing machines, Tensors and General Relativity, the wave equation and the inner workings of the brain. Thankfully, he explains all of these concepts with such clarity that prior knowledge of them and a degree in mathematics are unnecessary, to gain a full understanding of the book, and the occasional differential equations are not relevant to the theme of the book, and indeed should not discourage any potential reader. Of course, even if you do have good knowledge of the concepts introduced, the book is still a fantastic read, just to see how Penrose links the concepts introduced and reaches conclusions on them.
The book is also rather different to typical books about contemporary physics, which hail Superstring theories as the theory of everything. Penrose does not speak in depth about the newest forms of physics, but instead follows his conclusions from proven physics, and although he makes few specific predictions about the Theory of Everything, he does give a complete overview of the main features that he feels a Theory of Everything should contain. The fact that the conclusions are followed through from the physics explained in the book makes the conclusions much more justifiable than those of Superstring theories, even if you disagree with Penrose's final conclusion.
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Format: Hardcover
Roger Penrose, one of the world's top physicists, summarizes modern science, examining topics including Turing machines, relativity, quantum physics, black holes, etc. At the end, he argues that the human mind can not be simulated by computers or anything algorithmic. The Emperor's New Mind is my favorite book, although I didn't feel that way the first time I read it. It is quite technical, compared to, for instance, A Brief History of Time, which covers some of the same topics. The second time I read the book, I really dedicated a lot of time to understand the material as well as I could, often working out problems with paper and pencil. This was necessary for me to see that his conclusion was related to the rest of the book. While Penrose obviously can not "prove" his belief, he gives a strong, fascinating arguement, and the book has definitely affected my philosophical views concerning consciousness.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
To approach this book one needs to start from the premise that Roger Penrose has a brain the size of a planet. Dr Penrose’s idea of ‘simplifying’ the maths still leaves his arguments way beyond us mortals - but I have still given the book 4 stars. I have a Masters degree in Physics (admittedly from a long time ago, though I still remember taking a Penrose paper out of the library), but I could not follow much of the maths when reading through it, and doubt that I could even if I studied it.

That said, I found it very interesting and worthwhile to skip through the difficult bits and read what I could understand. You could say that he should have left out all the maths but I find it satisfying that he provides all the technical background that makes him totally convincing.

He raises many philosophical points, not always obviously relevant to his stated subject, and his very open on where he is unsure, or where there are opposing viewpoints to his own. Altogether a worthwhile read, but as another reviewer has pointed out, not for the faint hearted or those only interested in popular science.
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Format: Hardcover
I found the book to actually be more interesting in its discussion of physics and quantum mechanics than when I got to his thesis on mind and the computational impossibility of reproducing it in a computer. Although most of this is lucidly written and meticulous in its attention to detail, Penrose's final conclusion that the mind must have a quantum-mechanical aspect is unsupported by any evidence and seems to come from nowhere but his own deep desire to be more than chemicals. For me, the weakest part of the argument (in fact the only "evidence" he gives for his conclusion, really!) is the discussion of how long it takes a computer algorithm to solve a particular type of problem vs. how long it takes a person. It seems plausible, but ignores the fact that in this world, thousands of people work in parallel and cooperatively over many years to solve difficult problems and build on previous successes and failures. It ignores the roles of specialized education, folk knowledge, anecdotal evidence and how all of these result in common-sense elimination of fruitless pathways and recognition of fruitful pathways in human problem-solving.
Nevertheless, I found his physics primer (the first several chapters) to be better than many I have read, and the whole book gave me many nights of weird dreams. At the end, though, I wound up disappointed and feeling like I had been hoodwinked into someone's attempt to logically deduce his own personal faith.
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