The Road to Reality

But you have to admit it: it’s darn too hard to write a good blog entry if you have a terrific book beside you to read now. Or worse, if you have more than one. It is what exactly happening to me now: having some curious untouched books, but with only one or two minutes to explore them all. I chose to read them. Discussing them will have to wait for the next leisure time, if it will even happen in my lifetime (hehe).

So, here’s my first book: The Road to Reality, by Roger Penrose. I have no time to discuss it now. But as Amazon cited, 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.

After copying the previous whole paragraph, I just decided to end this blog entry, and continue reading. Penrose has spent eight years to finish this book, and I guess I will not finish it in three or four nights. Hey, now I’m in the pages with some Escher’s sketches in it. Well, what a purrfect weekend :).


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