Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose

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It seems from Faith, Fashion and Fantasy that Penrose has not felt comfortable with any of the radical new ideas in fundamental physics that have been set out in the past 40 years. I suspect that most leading research physicists will reject Penrose’s criticisms of the state of physics...
-Guardian

Synopsis

What can fashionable ideas, blind faith, or pure fantasy possibly have to do with the scientific quest to understand the universe? Surely, theoretical physicists are immune to mere trends, dogmatic beliefs, or flights of fancy? In fact, acclaimed physicist and bestselling author Roger Penrose argues that researchers working at the extreme frontiers of physics are just as susceptible to these forces as anyone else. In this provocative book, he argues that fashion, faith, and fantasy, while sometimes productive and even essential in physics, may be leading today's researchers astray in three of the field's most important areas--string theory, quantum mechanics, and cosmology.

Arguing that string theory has veered away from physical reality by positing six extra hidden dimensions, Penrose cautions that the fashionable nature of a theory can cloud our judgment of its plausibility. In the case of quantum mechanics, its stunning success in explaining the atomic universe has led to an uncritical faith that it must also apply to reasonably massive objects, and Penrose responds by suggesting possible changes in quantum theory. Turning to cosmology, he argues that most of the current fantastical ideas about the origins of the universe cannot be true, but that an even wilder reality may lie behind them. Finally, Penrose describes how fashion, faith, and fantasy have ironically also shaped his own work, from twistor theory, a possible alternative to string theory that is beginning to acquire a fashionable status, to "conformal cyclic cosmology," an idea so fantastic that it could be called "conformal crazy cosmology."

The result is an important critique of some of the most significant developments in physics today from one of its most eminent figures.

 

About Roger Penrose

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Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has received numerous prizes and awards, most notably the Wolf Foundation Prize in physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, and The Royal Society's Copley Medal. He is the author of three previous books, including The Emperor's New Mind. He lives in Oxford, England.
 
Published September 13, 2016 by Princeton University Press. 515 pages
Genres: Science & Math, Nature & Wildlife. Non-fiction
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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Graham Farmelo on Nov 12 2016

It seems from Faith, Fashion and Fantasy that Penrose has not felt comfortable with any of the radical new ideas in fundamental physics that have been set out in the past 40 years. I suspect that most leading research physicists will reject Penrose’s criticisms of the state of physics...

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