Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe

Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe

Roger Penrose / Feb 29, 2020

Fashion Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe What can fashionable ideas blind faith or pure fantasy possibly have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe Surely theoretical physicists are immune to mere trends dogmatic bel

  • Title: Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe
  • Author: Roger Penrose
  • ISBN: 9780691119793
  • Page: 336
  • Format: Hardcover
  • What can fashionable ideas, blind faith, or pure fantasy possibly have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe Surely, theoretical physicists are immune to mere trends, dogmatic beliefs, or flights of fancy In fact, acclaimed physicist and bestselling author Roger Penrose argues that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of physics are just as sWhat can fashionable ideas, blind faith, or pure fantasy possibly have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe Surely, theoretical physicists are immune to mere trends, dogmatic beliefs, or flights of fancy In fact, acclaimed physicist and bestselling author Roger Penrose argues that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of physics are just as susceptible to these forces as anyone else In this provocative book, he argues that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential in physics, may be leading today s researchers astray in three of the field s most important areas string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology.Arguing that string theory has veered away from physical reality by positing six extra hidden dimensions, Penrose cautions that the fashionable nature of a theory can cloud our judgment of its plausibility In the case of quantum mechanics, its stunning success in explaining the atomic universe has led to an uncritical faith that it must also apply to reasonably massive objects, and Penrose responds by suggesting possible changes in quantum theory Turning to cosmology, he argues that most of the current fantastical ideas about the origins of the universe cannot be true, but that an even wilder reality may lie behind them Finally, Penrose describes how fashion, faith, and fantasy have ironically also shaped his own work, from twistor theory, a possible alternative to string theory that is beginning to acquire a fashionable status, to conformal cyclic cosmology, an idea so fantastic that it could be called conformal crazy cosmology The result is an important critique of some of the most significant developments in physics today from one of its most eminent figures.

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    About "Roger Penrose"

      • Roger Penrose

        Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS is an English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to our understanding of the universe He is renowned for his work in mathematical physics, in particular his contributions to general relativity and cosmology He is also a recreational mathematician and philosopher.


    1. Roger Penrose is 85, and a lot of the material in this book has previously appeared in The Road to Reality and Cycles of Time. By all rights it should be awful, but in fact it's pretty good; none of the standard rules ever seem to apply to him. Incredibly, he's still alert, still active, still working hard on his collection of wacky but fascinating ideas. He's made considerable progress over the last decade and eagerly tells you about it in his well-constructed sentences and trademark diagrams. [...]

    2. Excellent book about the current state of our understanding the Universe as seen by famed scientist Roger Penrose (of say the awesome Road to Reality fame); not an easy read especially if you are not a physicist (the math is glossed over more and the explanations are ok with physical sense of the stuff); for a better full review - which made me aware as well as made me get the book on the spot, check the one below by mathematical physicist P Woit (ot the Not Even Wrong fame)mathlumbia/~woit/woTh [...]

    3. Who did Roger Penrose think his audience was when he was writing this book? It comes across at first blush as a work of popular science, with topics (like the notion of quantum-mechanical spin) being carefully explained. But, while Penrose is usually careful about explaining the physics, he is completely cavalier with the math. I have a Ph.D. in physics and there were many places where I had trouble following what he was talking about. To fully digest Penrose's arguments, it is not enough for th [...]

    4. I would not be surprised if the editor had suggested a change of the title of this book into “Fashion, Faith, Fantasy and Frustration”. But I assume that Prof Penrose refuses any editorial changes and that is a real shame, because this book could certainly use some.“Frustration” because, whilst Prof Penrose clearly is a distinguished mathematician, he is also a frustrated physicist. Prof Penrose has worked for 40 years on his twistor theory without getting any traction from the physics c [...]

    5. Roger Penrose is 85He is a giant. But Physics has moved away from him and in this book he’s kind of saying “this is where it sounds like I’m leaving things.”Let me get a major gripe out of the way: The book comes with a Mathematical Appendix. I have in my life known a lot more math than there is in the appendix and can still read the appendix without feeling lost. So I thought I’d understand the book a bit. Warning: Climbing to the top of the Empire State Building gets you closer to th [...]

    6. Road to Reality: New Perspectives In this book, mathematician Roger Penrose provocatively suggest that the community of theoretical physics has engaged in promoting fashionable ideas, that have deep conceptual problems, as frontiers of new physics. The principles of quantum physics and string theory and predictions in cosmology are done recklessly. Penrose calls string theory a “fashion,” quantum mechanics “faith,” and cosmic inflation a “fantasy.”Penrose observes that quantum physic [...]

    7. The first three chapters were on String Theory (fashion), Quantum Mechanics (faith), and Inflationary Cosmology (fantasy). The fourth chapter was on Penrose's alternative to the prevailing models listed in the previous chapters. His model is another mathematical theory which is made to fit the data known by physicists in the standard model and current cosmological data as much as the picture that is more often presented by more mainstream theoretical physicists. Basically, we have reached a poin [...]

    8. ***I won this book in a Giveaway***I love the premise of this book. Fashion, faith, and Fantasy in physics. Brilliant. The author is well known and knowledgeablewhat could go wrong? two things. 1. No matter what it says in the description, this is not a book for lay people. You need a pretty strong background in math and physics to understand it. I have a PhD in physical chemistry and was lost in some sections. This is a minor issue, though, compared to2. AWFUL editing. Holy smokeswhat editor l [...]

    9. Ok, because it seems like a lot of people purchased this book without knowing what they were getting into, this is not for the casual, lay reader of science books. There is some very complicated math here and the language is written for those with an expertise in this area, if that is not you, you will likely get nothing from this. To those for whom this was written, this is an important challenge and moment of clarity for a lot of the ideas that are thrown around in modern physics, sometimes wi [...]

    10. Just a warning. I actually have a degree in physics and still found this book technically overwhelming. This is really for people deeply read in the field.

    11. Roger Penrose has a bit of a reputation for being pathologically optimistic about the ability of his target audience to comprehend the contents of his popular science books. From Emperor's New Mind, through its follow-up Shadows of the Mind; from his (arguably THE) opus magnus of popular science The Road to Reality, through Cycles of Time to this latest work Roger Penrose has given me endless hours of head-scratching, confusion, bewilderment and those odd indefinable moments of brilliant clarity [...]

    12. roger penrose is a little crotchety. i think talking to him would be a little dull, despite all the incredible knowledge in his head. that being said, i'm all for a little conservatism in physics. penrose wants to expose the paucity of actual experimental evidence for the supradimensional theories included in M He wants to show that while quantum superposition agrees with experiment, he wants to show that there are reasons to believe that there are deeper theories waiting to be worked out. also [...]

    13. This may be a twilight book for Penrose, a chance to take a final stand on problems he has worked on during his long career. It has been written for educated lay people without much mathematical background. The book addresses three main topics: string theory, quantum mechanics, and general relativity, with their interrelationships. It was a long read, trying to pay attention to everything that was being said. Penrose sees many problems in all three main areas, but it is from his elevated experie [...]

    14. An alert up front: this book is extremely heavy going, and the assignment of much of the mathematics to appendices is somewhat of a relief, with emphasis on "somewhat." I consider my maths to be relatively strong—I have a PhD, and (until this book) felt I was on stable ground in both the Relativistic and Quantum Mechanical worlds. But some of the concepts explored and, in the particular case of string theory, debunked were mind-bending at times. It will be interesting to see how this series of [...]

    15. Fashion, Faith and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose.Review by Galen Weitkamp.Roger Penrose is the Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematics Institute in Oxford. In 1988 he shared the Wolf Prize with Stephen Hawking for their discovery of the Penrose-Hawking singularity theorems of general relativity and cosmology. Penrose is the author of a number of books which are aimed for an audience of serious laymen and professionals. Fashion, Faith and Fant [...]

    16. This book made me aware of the gaps in my scientific education. I understood only about a third of it sadly. However, what I glimpsed of the ideas was cool. The author points out shortcomings in string theory very clearly (to someone who understands the math) and shows how much work is needed in quantum physics. There are a few cutting remarks made against string theorists in general as well.

    17. An interesting book from a well known and knowledgeable author. In my opinion not as good as The Emperor's New Mind but worth the expense for those interested in this genre.However despite making reference to Schwarzschild's radius in his discussion of singularities, which those familiar would know as, r = 2GM/c^2, the author again repeated the erroneous fantasy that while radius (r) can reduce to zero in a final singularity or increase from zero in an initial one, like the Big bang singularity, [...]

    18. Another difficult book by one of the world's most distinguished physicists, Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy spends as much time talking about how we do, use, and develop the science of existence as it does exploring the details of that science. A great read for anyone interested in the way the upper crust of our intellectual elite manage and work within their scientific paradigms.

    19. This book is way more technical than I was expecting. I have a relatively strong math and abstract thinking background, but this was much closer to a textbook than I was expecting. Probably good for people in physics (or related fields). As a relative layman, this wasn't accessible.

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