- Hardcover: 520 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (2 September 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691119791
- ISBN-13: 978-0691119793
- Product Dimensions: 17.1 x 3.8 x 24.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #88,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe Hardcover – 2 Sep 2016
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Winner of the 2017 PROSE Award in Chemistry & Physics, Association of American Publishers "Physics has been at an awkward impasse for the past century. Two theories--quantum mechanics and general relativity--are widely believed to be true... But they contradict each other in basic ways--they cannot both be entirely true. InFashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe... Roger Penrose, an elder statesman of physics, considers the problem. As intellectually offbeat as he is eminent... he ventures here some novel ways in which the two theories might be reconciled."--Wall Street Journal "Penrose gets to the heart of modern physics' problem with subjectivity in this insightful and provocative pop-sci title... [A] rewarding discussion of scientific stumbles in the search for truth."--Publishers Weekly "It is always inspiring to read Penrose's uncompromisingly independent perspec-tive on physics."--Richard Dawid, Nature "An extremely original, rich, and thoughtful survey of today's most fashionable attempts to decipher the cosmos on its smallest and largest scales."--Science "I can't recommend [Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe] too highly to anyone with a serious interest in fundamental questions about physics."--Peter Woit, Not Even Wrong blog "In standing outside the fray and criticising the central dogmas of fundamental physics, Penrose is playing the role of Einstein, who forced quantum theorists to defend and hone their ideas, and Sir Fred Hoyle, who persistently challenged Big Bang theorists to sharpen their ideas. This is an extremely important role, and long may Penrose fulfill it."--Times Higher Education "[A] beautifully produced, beautifully laid-out and diagrammed book... There is possibly no better or more original expositor than Penrose to draw from. If modern physics theory is of interest to you, you certainly won't want to ignore this book."--Math Frolic "The book is replete with phenomenal visual representations of the physics under discussion, a reminder of Penrose's ability to see and describe physics in a unique way... Ultimately, what is most valuable about the book is the excellent example he offers in how to ask questions."--Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Physics World "Something is rotten in the state of physics... The eminent mathematician and physicist Roger Penrose identifies several possible sources of the rot... He is not one to be intimidated by an overwhelming majority, no matter how illustrious and vocal it is. He sets out his objections politely and with exemplary patience towards the keepers of physics orthodoxy... Time will tell whether any of his judgments are correct. In the meantime, his critics would do well to remember George Bernard Shaw's warning: 'The minority is sometimes right; the majority is always wrong.'"--Graham Farmelo, Guardian "A valuable insight into what one of the most prominent theoretical physicists of recent times makes of reality's relationship to ideas in quantum theory, standard cosmology, and theories that pretend to replace them."--Richard Webb, New Scientist "The strength of this book is how the reader can appreciate science as a human undertaking."--Choice "The most important thing is not exactly what he writes about string theory, cosmology and quantum mechanics in his latest book ... but that a book so wide and deep in its erudition could be written at all. If his successors cannot do the same, science will be all the poorer."--Philip Ball, Prospect
From the Back Cover
"This gem of a book is vintage Roger Penrose: eloquently argued and deeply original on every page. His perspective on the present crisis and future promise of physics and cosmology provides an important corrective to fashionable thinking at this crucial moment in science. This book deserves the widest possible hearing among specialists and the public alike."--Lee Smolin, author of Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the UniverseSee all Product description
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Each chapter is long and covers a wealth of issues related to the chapter's focus. Chapter one "Fashion" focuses on string theory, chapter two, "Faith" on quantum mechanics, and chapter three "Fantasy" on cosmology. The majority of the text is a deep analysis of various phenomena associated with each of these areas highlighting both that which should be taken seriously in any explanation of the real physics of the universe, and that which is problematic to that endeavor. These are detailed analyses indeed and if I was lucky I understood about 20% of what Penrose was trying to get across in these details.
Of the first three chapters, the cosmology chapter is the easiest to understand perhaps because it is the most "observation-ally oriented" of the three broad disciplines covered. Quantum mechanics (chapter two) is only indirectly observational and string theory (chapter one) has no observational basis whatsoever making Penrose's explication of them each (going backwards from 3 to 1) progressively more difficult. In chapter four, Penrose gets into twistor theory first applied to quantum mechanics and then to cosmology where twistor theory's math is supportive of "conforming cyclic cosmology", Penrose's hypothesis about how big bangs come about and why their entropy is so low. There is again plenty of "summary math" here but as with the first three chapters, Penrose manages to convey what problems he is trying to solve and the limitations of even his own solution.
Given its detail perhaps this book and its themes will not be ignored by the physics and cosmology communities at whom it appears directly aimed. Those of us who follow these things from the outside, if you do not have an insider's grasp of the math, will just have to content ourselves with parts of the text that address the author's concerns in between the development of the math supporting his arguments.
Before ending I want to say something explicitly about the kindle version of this book. All too often technical books are converted to kindle format without being subsequently checked. Even if they are checked, problems that crop up in converted diagrams, equations, and formulas are not addressed. What was easy to read on the printed page converts on the kindle to a difficult to see shade of grey, or becomes very small. Sometimes these problems even extend to the text. In some typefaces, for example, certain letter combinations like 'fl' are misread by the converter as a single letter, say 'k' and so words like 'conflict' come out as 'conkict' throughout the text. In this book, attention has obviously been paid to these issues. Not only is every section (almost every paragraph) cross referenced into themes referenced in the other chapters and appendices, but every equation and diagram is easily readable. Even equations in the end notes come out very read-ably. This might be the most heavily cross referenced book I have ever read and following the links works very smoothly in the Kindle edition. My thanks goes out to the technical production team for this book. They all did an excellent job of producing a quality Kindle text!
This volume is not so different.
In a nutshell:
1. Penrose dislikes String Theory because its extra dimensions admit too many functional degrees of freedom (basically the number of possible field configurations). It is not explained clearly why the super-explosion in the functional freedom space size is problematic, although he does make a related point that he believes that the six 'curled-up' dimensions are actually unstable and should collapse.
Perhaps it's obvious.
2. Quantum Theory is seen as a partial or incomplete theory - in particular, Penrose thinks that its linearity will be violated in an improved theory. He believes that the reason we don't observe 'Schrödinger's cat' spatial superpositions is due to the gravitational effects of superposition (he takes spatial delocalisation to have a real gravitational effect, aligning with his ontological realism for the quantum state). Specifically, the gravitational self-energy due to the superposition generates energy uncertainty, equivalent to time-uncertainty, hence superposed stationary states collapse into a position eigenstate very quickly. As he explains it, the maths behind this is pretty advanced, requiring general relativity.
3. Cosmologically, Penrose is not a fan of inflation, basing his criticisms on the 2nd Law and entropy. His criticisms have force suggesting that inflation retains support faute de mieux.
What does Penrose himself suggest as alternatives? He thinks twistor theory (a framework featuring emergent space-time) continues to have promise, and believes that a particular kind of bouncing, recurrent universe traversing through repeated big-bangs can explain the extraordinarily low entropy 13.8 billion years ago.
I think it's good for physics that he wrote this book, but absent a huge background in general relativity, complex analysis, twistor theory, quantum field theory and tensor analysis it's difficult to assess the merits of his arguments.
Though he writes at an advanced level about difficult topics, he is a very good writer. I would give it a 5, but that would imply that I understood everything in the book extremely well, which would be misleading. Though I doubt that many people in the world could make that claim, anyway.