Friday, September 22, 2006

Gushing on the road to reality

One of my small projects is working my way through Penroseā€™s The Road to Reality. Penrose attempts to explain all of modern physics, including its mathematics, to the untutored. In fact, the first third of the book presents the required mathematics.

At first, I thought of skipping the chapters containing the mathematics I know. I am glad I did not. The introduction contains a discussion of ideas in the philosophy of mathematics such as whether we create mathematics or discover it. He hooked me once I read the introduction. I was curious to see how he could explain physics from the ground up and decided not to skip any of the chapters.

He often introduces concepts in an unexpected way, ways you will not find in a standard textbook. He also makes liberal uses of pictures and geometry to motivate the concepts. That allows him to gallop at a brisk pace. For instance, his introduction to complex numbers explains why complex numbers are more useful than real numbers in explaining the convergence and divergence of infinite power series. He does not waste a lot of time explaining all the nuances of infinite series before that, but includes the necessary ideas in his presentation including the geometry of the situation.

Even though I have not traveled far into the book, I am beginning to believe it is a masterpiece of exposition. I would never have believed that someone could conceive of such a book, let alone, write it.

As you can tell this is a rather gushing review of a book of which I have barely scratched the surface. However, I do not believe that gushing is always a bad thing.

I do not doubt that his book is more exciting to me, somebody who likes his mathematics, rather than someone who suffers from math phobia. However, if anyone can cure math phobia, it is Penrose.

I really like the beat and it is very easy to dance to. I give it unqualified ninety-eight.

4 Comments:

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Edie said...

All right, you've sold me on it.

 
At 12:35 AM, Blogger Lynn said...

edie -

Good. I hope you like it. Don't give me a pop quiz on it though. I might not show up very well.

 
At 11:07 PM, Blogger janus said...

thanks for the recommendation; i might give it a look, then.

for some reason, when i heard it was a thousand pages long, i feared the worst and equated it with stephen wolfram's a new kind of science.

 
At 11:45 PM, Blogger Lynn said...

janus -

I'm sure you can skip over the first third of the book, and maybe over much other stuff.

I read some it everyday mesmerized.

 

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