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Preparation to The Road to Reality

by NekOSound
Tags: preparation, the road to reality
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Jan3-12, 09:14 AM
P: 4
Hello everyone,

Sorry, I know it's not the right section but I can't post in the "Math & Science Learning Materials" forum.

I read really good reviews about Penrose's book "The Road to Reality" and I will probably purchase it, but I also read that the prerequistes in maths were well above uni level.

Since I'm finishing my last year of highschool, I wanted to know which book could be a good preparation to Penrose's ?

Thank you in advance !

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Jan3-12, 09:33 AM
micromass's Avatar
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Penrose will be far above your level. Even grad students in math and physics might not know everything in the book.

You must treat Penrose's book as a roadmap. The book will give you a short introduction on each topic and it will tell you what is important. However, it will be necessary to look at some other source to really understand everything Penrose is saying.

For example, Penrose will introduce manifolds. The idea is that you read Penrose's view of the matter and then look at some other source for a full explanation.

If you really want to understand physics, then you should start by studying calculus and general physics.
Jan3-12, 09:46 AM
P: 4
Thank you micromass for your quick answer ! =)

Do you have any recomandations of good books on the topics you advice (calculus and general physics) that would be of my level ?

Jan3-12, 02:49 PM
P: 1,245
Preparation to The Road to Reality

Penrose starts out at a fairly low level with only high school math prerequisites, so you could start reading it. But it might not be the easiest way to learn the stuff, and it starts getting kind of heavy by chapter 7. Even chapter 6 has some reasonably hard problems in it. I think there are 33 or 34 chapters in the book.

I am still trying to finish it, and I almost have a PhD in math. Of course, the only reason I haven't finished it is because I don't have time, and because there's a lot of stuff in there that you have to find other sources for to fully understand, but if it were easy, I would have finished it by now. I've been a bit stuck in the twenty-something chapters because you have to learn a considerable amount of physics (quantum field theory and the standard model of particle physics) to fill in a lot of the gaps. That's a big task. Quantum field theory is the hardest subject that physicists have to learn.

There's probably no point in giving a list of references for the whole book, since it is pretty thick, and it will take you years before you would need them. John Baez has a lot of helpful articles scattered throughout his website if you can find them.

Actually, Penrose himself gives references for a lot of the material in the book. For example, in chapter 7, he recommends his former student, Tristan Needham's book, Visual Complex Analysis for a more complete treatment of complex analysis.
Jan3-12, 03:06 PM
P: 4
Thank you homeomorphic, I think I will buy it and then like you said find more help on the chapters with external sources. Thank you again ! =D
Jan21-12, 09:17 AM
P: 1,080
Quote Quote by NekOSound View Post
Thank you micromass for your quick answer ! =)
Do you have any recomandations of good books on the topics you advice (calculus and general physics) that would be of my level ?
There are several books at this level. You might start with standard first year university textbooks like:

Jordan, D. & Smith, P. Mathematical Techniques (OUP)
Young, H.D. & Freedman, R.A. University Physics (Addison-Wesley)

These are much easier to understand than Penrose. But you will need to do a full degree in physics, and then some, before you get to cover all the topics Penrose is talking about in the kind of mathematical language he is using.

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