The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe

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The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe  
Author Roger Penrose
Language English
Genre(s) Popular science
Publisher Vintage Books
Publication date 2004 Later revised editions: 2005, 2006, 2007
Pages 1136

The Road to Reality is a book on modern physics by the British mathematical physicist Roger Penrose, published in 2004. It covers the basics of the standard model of modern physics, discussing general relativity and quantum mechanics and then expands on the possible unification of these two theories.

The book is just over 1100 pages, of which the first 350 are dedicated to mathematics—Penrose's goal was to acquaint inquisitive readers with the mathematical tools needed to understand the remainder of the book in depth. On page 383 physics enters the discussion with the topic of spacetime. From there it moves on to fields in spacetime, deriving the classical electrical and magnetic forces from first principles; that is, if one lives in spacetime of a particular sort, these fields develop naturally as a consequence. Energy and conservation laws appear in the discussion of the Lagrangians and Hamiltonians, before moving onto a full discussion of quantum physics, particle theory and quantum field theory. A discussion of the measurement problem in quantum mechanics is given a full chapter; superstrings are given a chapter near the end of the book, as are loop gravity and twistor theory. The book ends with an exploration of other theories and possible ways forward.

The book discusses the physical world. Many fields that scientists in the 19th century believed were separate, electricity and magnetism for instance, are facets of a single property, electromagnetism. Some texts, both popular and university level, introduce these topics as separate concepts and then "force" the combination on them much later. In Road to Reality this process is reversed, by first demonstrating the mathematics that is needed to discuss the spacetime we appear to live in, then showing that electromagnetism simply falls out fully formed.

As Penrose admits, the final chapters reflect his personal perspective, as opposed to what he considers current fashion among theoretical physicists. He is skeptical about string theory, to which he prefers loop quantum gravity; he is optimistic about his own approach, twistor theory, and holds some controversial views about the role of consciousness in physics, as laid out in his earlier books (see Shadows of the Mind).

[edit] See also

[edit] Book editions

[edit] External links

  • Site with errata and solutions to the book's many exercises. Not sponsored by Penrose.
  • Internet forum.
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