The Road to Reality - Roger Penrose

Shelve this one next to the Bible.

Feature by Ali Maloney | 14 Aug 2006

Writing a book called 'A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe' is an astonishingly ambitious project for anyone, but Sir Roger Penrose, the man responsible for our modern conception of black holes, the idea behind MC Escher's impossible staircase, and countless other contributions to numerous other fields, rises to and exceeds the challenge. Reading such a book is a daunting task, but 'The Road to Reality' is intended for a general audience. Penrose assumes no prior knowledge of mathematics on the part of the reader, but a robust willingness to learn is required. The first section of the book covers all the mathematics needed to understand the laws of the universe, from complex algebra to manifold dimensions. The second part applies your newly trained brain to such mysteries as the thermodynamics of the Big Bang, quantum theory and non-linear gravity. It is this set-up that makes the book so wonderfully monolithic. It is a self-contained guide, albeit one that could take a lifetime to master. Penrose offers countless thought experiments and offshoot ways of thinking about the universe, and he actively encourages the reader to tackle his proofs head on with exercises, formulae and puzzles.
At well over 1,000 pages, this is an intimidating book, but if you're willing to work at it it's well worth it. Shelve this one next to the Bible.

Published by Vintage. Out Now. Cover Price £15
Roger Penrose appears at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, RBS Main Theatre, August 21, 4:30pm.