Roger Penrose’s latest book: Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy

fashion_faith_fantasyI often say that my three heroes in physics are Albert Einstein, Gerard ‘t Hooft and Roger Penrose. I try to read all books written by Roger Penrose. His latest book is titled “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe” (501 pages). This book complements his earlier book “The Road to Reality” (1099 pages). I started reading the “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy.” I am not sure when I will be able to finish it. I am still reading the “heavy” book “The Road to Reality.”

The main points of the “Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy” book are mentioned at the website of the Princeton University Press by the author himself.  I wanted to share these points with you. The following are the comments by Roger Penrose given in response to the interviewer’s question

“In your book, you note that there are many examples of scientific theories that, at some point in the past, were regarded as fully accepted wisdom, but which we no longer give any credence. You then suggest that there are elements of the current dogma of physics that future generations are likely to look back on as equally misconceived. Specifically, you point to important examples of misdirected thinking in three major areas: string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. Can you describe your concerns about each?”

String theory

“One of the main themes of my book emphasizes difficulties with extra-dimensional theories, such as current string theory, which demands, for a consistent scheme, the existence of several extra hidden dimensions of space. Although string theory doesn’t make clear predictions, and may be regarded as suspect as a physical theory from that point of view, I make the case that the difficulties are more deep-rooted than a lack of predictions and that the notion of extradimensional space is unlikely to survive.”

Quantum mechanics

“At the other end of the spectrum, where there is indeed an enormous predictive power, is current quantum theory. I argue that despite the full agreement between quantum-mechanical predictions and experiment (whenever the relevant experiments have been possible to perform), there must nevertheless be experiments, not far from the limitations of today’s technology, where the results are likely to contradict the standard predictions of quantum mechanics, bringing it in tension with Einstein’s general relativity. It will be fascinating to see where the tug-of-war between these two titans of twentieth century physical theory will lead us. I believe that there is a revolution in the theoretical picture of the physical world waiting in the wings.”

Cosmology

“Finally there is cosmology, and this subject has relatively recently entered a new era—largely due to the discovery, in the mid-1960s, of the cosmic microwave background (CMB)—where theory can be well tested by observation. Indeed, much of present theory has evolved in close association with such observation, and a complacency has grown up that the overall picture of the universe, from an early inflationary beginning to its exponential expansion, is pretty secure. Here, again, I believe that there is likely to be a radical overturning of our ideas, and that there is even evidence in analyses of the CMB that strongly indicates what I call an “aeon” existing prior to the Big Bang, and supplanting the theoretical need for an early inflationary phase to our universe. Although this idea has not, so far, gained much credence from the cosmological community, my belief is that this situation will change in the not-so-distant future.”

 

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About Suresh Emre

I have worked as a physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory. I am a volunteer for the Renaissance Universal movement. My main goal is to inspire the reader to engage in Self-discovery and expansion of consciousness.
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