Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The Road to Reality By Penrose?

  1. Oct 17, 2004 #1
    "The Road to Reality" By Penrose?

    i live in the US and decided to get this book off of amazon.uk.co. i was wondering if anyone has read, or atleast skimmed (its pretty big) through it and would mind telling me if its a good buy(although if it isnt, its a little late now :tongue2:).

    also, im pretty new to most of the theories. all of my knowledge has come from "A Brief History of Time", "The Elegant Universe", "The Universe in a Nutshell", and "Hyperspace". Do you think i could plow my way through this book or would it be way over my head? thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2004 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    It apparently takes no prisoners on math. I haven't seen a copy but it is apparently a great book if (a) You want something on the coffee table to impress the neighbors, or (b)you already know the subjects it covers. YMMD.
  4. Oct 17, 2004 #3
    well, im taking calculus in math right now. how high up does it go? and whats YMMD mean?
  5. Oct 26, 2004 #4
    Here's another acronym: SIAS (suck it and see). Read the preface carefully as Penrose gives good advice on how to tackle the book. It's good that you are doing calculus, he kind of skips over that saying (in paraphrase) "the differential of x^2 is 2x, read this 1000 page calculus book if you want more details". A reader without calculus could just accept this and still get a lot out of the chapter on calculus. If you take that approach to the harder mathematics, then you should be fine. There are a lot of reviews and links from the following URL that may help give you more persepective on the book. Also the reviews on amazon.co.uk are coming in every day and it's real fun seeing the mixed opinions (one autodidact loves it, a PhD student can't understand it...)


    Keep on ploughing, go round rocky ground!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  6. Nov 21, 2005 #5
    I'm still only in high school and I recently got this book. I got up to Ch2 (yes I got the book very recently) and I can't seem to understand what he's saying. Every now and then I catch on, but I always end up getting confused, trying to understand everything he is saying. Is this suppose to happen for someone like me, or is anyone suppose to be able to plough through the book without any prior math knowledge and be able to understand every single thing he says if they're smart enough?

    Right now I don't even understand what he means by euclidean geometry and hyperbolic geometry. We have never learnt anything about that at school (atleast I don't think I have) and the only thing that rings a bell is the word hyperbola which, to me, only means 1/x and 1/(x^2) and that's it.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2005
  7. Nov 21, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I have to say I LOVE the book. I'm reading it now cover to cover for the second time (I'm at chapter 28 for the moment). But, but... I don't know what kind of students Penrose got over the floor, but clearly the slope is steep. As SA says, it gives a great perspective on stuff you already know. Well, I *did* learn stuff in the book. I did learn about fibre bundles that were not tangent bundles.

    It has no comparing to A brief history of time. Maybe it comes a little closer to "the elegant universe", but I still think it is WAY harder. That is because Penrose doesn't just want to talk ABOUT stuff, he want to teach you the stuff, too, starting from somewhere in high school and ending as a PhD in theoretical physics. Honestly, if it were that easy, you wouldn't need 10 years for that, would you ? Just read a book and it's ok ?

    Nevertheless, I think it is worth to read it, and to try to understand what you can.
  8. Nov 23, 2005 #7
    Does anyone know of a good book that would guide me through the mathematics section of this book? My mathematics knowledge isn't up to par to comprehend some of the stuff Roger Penrose is talking about.
  9. Nov 23, 2005 #8
    I'd say just wait until you've learned it in a degree course and read what you can.

    When I first got the book I read Chapters 17 and 18 (I think these are the Special Relativity and Classical Field Theory chapters), I understood what he was saying about Maxwell's Electromagnetism, but I didn' have a clue about what he was saying about General Relativity, since I didn't know it.

    Know after learning some General Relativity from Schutz and Carroll, I think the chapter contains some very "deep" information about Classical Field theories and what they are trying to say. Particularly when he compares terms in the field equation to terms in Maxwell's equations.
    (Such as the metric being the equivalent of the potential, the Christoffel symbols being the equivalent of the Field, e.t.c.)

    I think it's a great book for seeing connections between things and getting a new point of view on things you already know.
  10. Nov 23, 2005 #9
    Oh I see, I was under the impression that this book could be completely understood by any layman. Guess I was wrong.
  11. Nov 23, 2005 #10
    It was intended that way, but I don't think it actually works.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2005
  12. Nov 23, 2005 #11


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That's what Penrose himself claims, but as I said, I don't know what kind of students he got over the floor during his career as a professor to have made him think that this were possible ! You'd start out as a highschool student and you'd end as a PhD in theoretical physics if you'd read his book as he intended :bugeye:
  13. Nov 23, 2005 #12
    Guess I'm going to have to keep this book for another 5 years before I'll understand most of it:( It'll probably be thrown out by then.
  14. Nov 23, 2005 #13


    User Avatar

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook