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

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  6,833 ratings  ·  187 reviews
Roger Penrose, one of the most accomplished scientists of our time, presents the only comprehensive and comprehensible account of the physics of the universe. From the very first attempts by the Greeks to grapple with the complexities of our known world to the latest application of infinity in physics, The Road to Reality carefully explores the movement of the smallest ato ...more
Paperback, 1099 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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Lucas Não é preciso saber muita matemática de antemão para seguir as ideias do livro, e com certeza saber um pouco de cálculo e de matrizes é o bastante. É …moreNão é preciso saber muita matemática de antemão para seguir as ideias do livro, e com certeza saber um pouco de cálculo e de matrizes é o bastante. É preciso uma boa imaginação, curiosidade e interesse, porque o Penrose faz uma introdução (bem por cima) das teorias que ele vai usar ao longo do livro, e que muitas vezes podem parecer estranhas e complicadas, mas definitivamente não é um texto acadêmico. Elas são primariamente para criar uma intuição no leitor de como funcionam as ideias matemáticas modernas que são utilizadas na física. Ainda assim, se você conseguir acompanhar essas ideias, é um livro que te faz pensar e descobrir muitas coisas interessantes sobre o universo.(less)

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Jun 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who seriously want to understand physics better
Recommended to Manny by: Nick Black
Many of my all-time favourite books make the list because they show you what it's like to be inside the mind of an extraordinary person. While you're reading them, Churchill's History of the Second World War and Yourcenar's Mémoires d'Hadrien let you be a great statesman at a pivotal moment in history. Simone de Beauvoir's autobiography, more than any other book I know, gives you the feeling of being a major literary figure. Polugayevsky's Grandmaster Preparation, which many chessplayers treat a ...more
Mar 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I am finished, finally. All the 1050+ pages of this ambitious behemoth - including many exercises. What a ride!...
Finished? Well you are never finished with such a book, titled “The road to reality” but actually providing more than that: providing nothing less than a “road-map” to reality, and opening to the reader new beautiful vistas in modern mathematics and physics. I am sure that I will come back to this book in the future, as a source of inspiration and for future reference.

Before I start
Aug 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dave Langford, SF&F critic and reviewer, in his long-since defunct column for White Dwarf magazine, once said that, "There is a tendency to over-praise big books simply because one has got through them." I agree that this tendency exists but note that Langford gave no reason for it. I think the reason is more or less macho intellectual pride; look at me! I read this honking great saga! It must be great or I'd have to admit wasting my time! And I need to show off my intellectual credentials! Now ...more
Sanjay Gautam
Dec 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its the greatest science book ever written in the whole world, since the beginning of the time. Its certainly not popular science, its hardcore science and maths, written for general audience.
Cassandra Kay Silva
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Penrose, Penrose, Penrose. Oh how I LONG to know thee. I am becoming minorly obsessed with you and your work. I am pacing for crying out loud. I am running myself in circles. Opening, closing, referencing, coming back, straining my eyes as if that will make me see the world that you do. Why do you elude me so? Why does your tongue speak as if attached to the left temporal lobe itself? I catch glimpses of this reality you see. I feel myself drawn to it in longing for truth and understanding. For ...more
Apr 19, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: priority
I have a suspicion that Penrose hasn't spoken to a undergraduate in 30 years. His notion of "introductory material" is not just wrong, its downright strange.

The famed mathematician devotes several pages to discussing the addition of fractions then breezes through holomorphic functions and Reimann spheres.

I'll return to this book in a year or two when I have the mathematical background to qualify as a "non-mathematician."
Nick Black
Penrose came to GT and gave an open lecture on cosmic parameters and cosmological arguments from the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (chapter 27 in this book, one of the most ambitious and impressive -- if incomplete, a bit uneven, and just as taxing as you've heard -- catechisms I've ever read), and a closed lecture on twistor theory (chapter 33), and signed my copy! w00t! I shook Sir Roger's hand as trillions of neutrinos passed through us both, completely undetected, our entangled R-type state evol ...more
So we had a physicist around to dinner the other day and thrust this at him. I can't call T---- by his real name, let's just say he rhymes with a dip made with chickpeas and tahini. The reason I can't call him by his real name is that he works at a place that starts with C and rhymes with a complete lack of humour. He likes his job, I don't want to get him sacked for reading Penrose.

He flicks through it and the first thing I note is that physicists take about 5 nanoseconds to read what it takes
Jun 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
this book RULES. it is a sort of primer on the mathematics required to really understand quantum physics. of course, that is a pretty huge pile of stuff, and this is a damn huge book. it moves faaast too: the entire theoretical foundations of single-variable calculus takes up one chapter. the reader is rapidly pulled through pretty heavy cram sessions in multivariable calculus, algebraic topology, real analysis... everything you need! and yet, it does not feel at all dense, because roger penrose ...more
Ivan Vuković
wow... I actually managed to read it, 1050 pages, every single one of them.

But can I really say that I'm done with this book? I don't think so... Although it took me a year and a half to read it, I didn't even understand a significant part of it. Since I'm a physics student I understood most of it on some very basic level, but I'm pretty sure I'll have to open this book again and again to take a peek at some of the awesome ideas put here by Penrose.

Did I say awesome? That's a huge understatement
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Amazing. While I can not exactly call Road to Reality a popularization of general relativity and quantum theory, it is a peerless introduction to and review of those topics. I have a PhD in mathematics, and studied physics and math as an undergraduate, and there was plenty for me to learn from this book. There are very few people in the world who would not learn much from reading it.

Many years ago, I read Penrose's Emporer's New Mind which was good as far as it went, but earned my derision with
Vagabond of Letters, DLitt
Let me start off by saying (its relevance will soon be revealed) I have a bachelor of science in applied mathematics and a PhD-ABD in another strongly quantitative discipline* (both are top-50 schools, and I wasn't in the bottom 50% of the class), and after the first 300 or so pages (out of 1200) the math in this book (and it's at least 40% or more straight math, not text, and often without text explaining the math) is way above my head and is left often undefined in the text. The author doesn't ...more
Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, nonfiction
This book is too sprawling to wait and review all at once at the end, so I've decided to do it little by little as I go along.

I thought the prologue sucked, but immediately after that it became deeply fascinating, so don't get discouraged. I guess I should say why I hated it, though. It seemed as though he was judging former times and societies through a "presentist" lens, as though all people have always and only been scientists since the start of time, only they were really bad at it back then
James F
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
For the past year and a half I have been reading heavily in popular works on physics and astronomy, at various levels ranging from the superficial gosh-wow (Michel Kaku) through total beginner level to the somewhat more sophisticated (Brian Greene, Kip Thorne, Lee Smolin); but almost always I have been frustrated in my understanding by the lack of any mathematics to support the often metaphorical discussions. At the same time, I understood that the real mathematics of relativity, let alone quant ...more
Alex Lee
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
In this amazing book, Roger Penrose looks for a very fundamental issue.

He is looking for a single metric to describe everything.

This is not a unit of reality, however, although this is how he poses the issue.

The problem with selecting a metric, as he shows us over and over, lies in how different metrics arise from localizations on various manifolds. As these metrics are extended beyond the localization, the very structure of these metrics will threaten to buckle. In many instances, the metrics (
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: natuurkunde
The story goes that Stephen Hawking was once told by a book publisher that every formula in his book would halve the amount of readers (or sales, almost the same thing, but not to a publisher). He was , of course, totally and utterly wrong. The Road to Reality contains about 1100 pages and, on average, there's about 9 formulas per page. That makes roughly 10,000 formulas. According to this publisher's law, that would halve the sales ten thousand times (2^(-10000)), so a rough estimate of the amo ...more
F Avery
Jun 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
By his own admission in the preface, this is Penrose' attempt to popularize the current thinking in theoretical physics, including quantum mechanics, relativity, and unification theories such as string theories and quantum gravity. In the introduction he says (paraphrased) that he has intentionally gone for the more mathematical route, in spite of advice to the contrary, but he hopes that those without a mathematical bent can just skip the equations and get the gist of the concepts anyway.
With d
Jan 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
As accurate a title as can be for this tremendously ambitious behemoth. I very much enjoyed the masterful laying of a mathematical framework when first I came across it (the first dozen or so chapters if memory serves; hence the rating, as well as for the aforementioned ambition in the task- I think this is a right way to go, though popular expositors seldom venture down this route), as Penrose does it so efficiently (and naturally too, so that the layman wouldn't shove it aside in disgust after ...more
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Penrose examines the turn modern theoretical physics has taken in pursuit of multi-dimensional mathematical models to develop a unified model of the sub-atomic realm. His argument is not entirely mathematical, though he does have good arguments against unnecessary complexity from the point of view of the straightforward progress made by theoretical physics in discovering the mathematical elegance of relationships among various observed constants. His most profound argument against String Theory ...more
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: physics, reality

ok. I'm gonna have to revisit this one after I practice my math skills. Way too much went over my head.

If you're gonna pick up just know, penrose does not half ass his mathematical expositions.

I recommend this highly for those who want to know how mathematical physicists see the world, and who can breath in the face of high level mathematics.

I give it five stars due to how comprehensive it is, and for how much I love penrose's prose and mind

I have
Mohamed al-Jamri
Apr 05, 2016 marked it as half-read
This book is not for those with no strong background in mathematics and physics and it is definitely not for lay readers.

Except for the first 40 pages or so the book material was very sophisticated and hard to understand for me. Today I decided to stop as for the past 30 or so oages I could only understand little of what I was reading.

I'm putting it on hold now and I may return to it later after establishing a strong base in mathematics and physics.
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Not an easy read because of all of the math, but well worth the effort for those who can make it.
Feb 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: physics
Deciphering the laws of physics to create universal reality

This is an exhaustive review of the laws of physics as related to physical reality with significant emphasis on the mathematical component. The author is an outstanding mathematical physicist of our times, and in this book of 1100 pages, he describes the concept of space, time, and matter (energy) in terms of classical physics, quantum physics, string theory and its derivatives.

In physics, the behavior of objects is understood in terms
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was incredibly foreboding to me at the outset. With no mathematical training past high school, and self-diagnosed numerical/mathematical dyslexia, I felt considerable trepidation about it. I honestly thought my friend had recommended it to me as a cruel joke, but I was determined to enter these interesting but hopelessly deep waters.

Opening the book, and getting through some alarming preamble, I was treated to what was obviously the first part of a frame narrative (readers should be fo
Leo Walsh
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Scientific Readers w/ Math Skills
How Would a Physicist Think About the Quantum World?

I usually fly through books, and have no problem understanding them. Not this one. Over a year after I first cracked it, I am finally done. I am amazed by the rigor of this work. In fact, I can say that I “sort of” understand the major concepts of quantum mechanics as a physicist would.

Most popularizations of quantum physics are simplifications, ignoring the math. More insidious, the concepts of quantum mechanics are used to “justify” some scie
Matt Heavner
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is quite a challenging read -- but definitely worth the effort! The first half is primarily "math" while the second half is "physics." Penrose did an amazing job of writing a guidebook to a great deal of the breadth of both of these fields. I felt there were some uneven sections -- I remember a great deal of discussion on Fourier transforms and thinking that if a whole section of discussion is needed there, how will the reader keep up through differential topology, twistor theory, diagramma ...more
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Engineers, Teachers & Weird Guys
Recommended to Michael by: Some weird guy at the gym.
I desperately want to make it through this book. I might be crazy. I think part of my fascination with finishing it is to compensate for not finishing engineering school. I can tell you this... It would be a lot easier to read if I had attained my degree (and actually learned the material along the way). Nonetheless, this book opens in the most interesting and captivating fashion, which says a lot about a book that works to explain the universe by walking through the history of mathematics. A co ...more
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: rereads, favorites
Wow, this book covers so much material I don't even know where to start. Nor am I exactly qualified to review a few of the more advanced topics. This is not a textbook per se, and it reads much more smoothly and purposefully than a boring theorem, proof type structure. Just an fyi though, the first third or so is essentially a survey/seminar on modern math. It begins benignly with philosophy, euclidean geometry, and intro to hyperbolic geometry, and some fairly elementary number theory. However, ...more
Paul Black
The first 382 pages are a review of math! It leaves me behind by about chapter 3. The next 486 pages explain the current models of physics. The last about 200 pages explore the meaning of reality and possible models of everything. Skip the math (I did!) and just read the exposition. You'll find gems like mapping spacetime points onto twistors (p 974), relations can be non-local (Fig. 33.21, p 992), and the three worlds of existence (p 1029).

He points out that theories built on relations, like sp
Ayush Khaitan
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are two types of books that people use to learn about Science. One is popular science books, which tell you what's going on, but don't really get into the nuts and bolts of why these events are occurring, and how these fit into the big scientific picture. Another is textbooks, which purport to get into the nuts and bolts of events by throwing mathematical equations at you, but you lose your fascination for the scientific phenomena. The big picture gets buried under too many equations, and ...more
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Sir Roger Penrose OM FRS is an English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 2020 Nobel prize in physics, shared with Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez for the black hole discoveries, and the 1988 Wolf Prize for phys ...more

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28 likes · 15 comments
“We have a closed circle of consistency here: the laws of physics produce complex systems, and these complex systems lead to consciousness, which then produces mathematics, which can then encode in a succinct and inspiring way the very underlying laws of physics that gave rise to it.” 41 likes
“No doubt there are some who, when confronted with a line of mathematical symbols, however simply presented, can only see the face of a stern parent or teacher who tried to force into them a non-comprehending parrot-like apparent competence--a duty and a duty alone--and no hint of magic or beauty of the subject might be allowed to come through.” 22 likes
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