- Paperback: 1136 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (January 9, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0679776311
- ISBN-13: 978-0679776314
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 277 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe Reprint Edition
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If Albert Einstein were alive, he would have a copy of The Road to Reality on his bookshelf. So would Isaac Newton. This may be the most complete mathematical explanation of the universe yet published, and Roger Penrose richly deserves the accolades he will receive for it. That said, let us be perfectly clear: this is not an easy book to read. The number of people in the world who can understand everything in it could probably take a taxi together to Penrose's next lecture. Still, math-friendly readers looking for a substantial and possibly even thrillingly difficult intellectual experience should pick up a copy (carefully--it's over a thousand pages long and weighs nearly 4 pounds) and start at the beginning, where Penrose sets out his purpose: to describe "the search for the underlying principles that govern the behavior of our universe." Beginning with the deceptively simple geometry of Pythagoras and the Greeks, Penrose guides readers through the fundamentals--the incontrovertible bricks that hold up the fanciful mathematical structures of later chapters. From such theoretical delights as complex-number calculus, Riemann surfaces, and Clifford bundles, the tour takes us quickly on to the nature of spacetime. The bulk of the book is then devoted to quantum physics, cosmological theories (including Penrose's favored ideas about string theory and universal inflation), and what we know about how the universe is held together. For physicists, mathematicians, and advanced students, The Road to Reality is an essential field guide to the universe. For enthusiastic amateurs, the book is a project to tackle a bit at a time, one with unimaginable intellectual rewards. --Therese Littleton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
At first, this hefty new tome from Oxford physicist Penrose (The Emperor's NewMind) looks suspiciously like a textbook, complete with hundreds of diagrams and pages full of mathematical notation. On a closer reading, however, one discovers that the book is something entirely different and far more remarkable. Unlike a textbook, the purpose of which is purely to impart information, this volume is written to explore the beautiful and elegant connection between mathematics and the physical world. Penrose spends the first third of his book walking us through a seminar in high-level mathematics, but only so he can present modern physics on its own terms, without resorting to analogies or simplifications (as he explains in his preface, "in modern physics, one cannot avoid facing up to the subtleties of much sophisticated mathematics"). Those who work their way through these initial chapters will find themselves rewarded with a deep and sophisticated tour of the past and present of modern physics. Penrose transcends the constraints of the popular science genre with a unique combination of respect for the complexity of the material and respect for the abilities of his readers. This book sometimes begs comparison with Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and while Penrose's vibrantly challenging volume deserves similar success, it will also likely lie unfinished on as many bookshelves as Hawking's. For those hardy readers willing to invest their time and mental energies, however, there are few books more deserving of the effort. 390 illus. (Feb. 24)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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While not an easy read, it is a great starting point for anyone looking to get back into physics - by approaching it from the mathematical side (Penrose is actually a mathematical physicist - he holds one of the most prestigious chairs in the world of mathematics). For those who are interested in the NEXT book after this one, I had compiled a list of similar 'self learning' books :
So why four stars instead of five? Check the title of this review. I have my bachelor's in math and physics (good school, poor student) and a large portion of this book looks like it will take a long time to digest, with the chapters on differential geometry looking like a few months of work and many secondary sources. Somebody without knowledge of those fields would have to treat the entire book that way. In short, the book is far less self-contained than it appears to be, and I would say less than the author thinks, as well. For example, in the second chapter he apologizes for having to use logarithms. This is in a book where, a dozen chapters later, we're taking the Lie derivative of tensors. Apologizing for using logarithms, yet somehow the reader is supposed to understand pseudo-Riemannian geometry a few hundred pages later. Either that's some sort of twisted joke or he really thinks that we can get it that quickly.
For all the complaining about the difficulty of some parts of this book, it's still a good one to pick up: even somebody who has to skip a great deal of the math could still learn a lot about the state of modern physics through the more qualitative descriptions of reality. Maybe after putting a bit more time into really reading closely I'll find that I was being too harsh on it all along, but we'll see in a few months.
would not be readable by a layperson. I read the first 270 pages so far, until I came to the first part that I had never
previously encountered. Then I put the book aside temporarily until I would be able to study that subject, which so far
I never did. Perhaps that might be typical reader behavior, except most people won't get to page 270 before they
find a page they cannot understand. So, buy this book only if you are prepared either to (1) study very hard using
many other sources in order to understand each chapter, or (2) want to just skim a little with an illusion of understanding.