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CYCLES OF TIME : ROGER PENROSE




Equations don't sell. Pop science editors tell us that each equation added to a book halves its sales figure. If this is true, Sir Roger Penrose's Cycles of Time, which was recently released in the US, and which I can testify sold at least one copy, would have sold by the billions if only the editor would have scrapped half of the equations.

With his 2004 book The Road To Reality Penrose has shown to be capable of blurring the distinction between textbooks and pop science writings. Cycles of Time continues in this tradition. I applaud Renrose's non-populistic attitude, and admire his style. Reading 'The Road' and 'Cycles' is like listening to talks by Penrose himself. A Penrose who does not shy away from in-depth explanations and who dives deep into the beauty of mathematical physics. Penrose boldly presents spinors, twistors, Clifford algebras and conformal diagrams to the general public. I know of no other pop-science writer who dares to tread into this territory.

Yet, one might wonder who is Penrose's audience. Lay persons mostly find his books mathematically too dense. A casual reader will prefer Hawking's The Grand Design over Penrose's math heavy Cycles of Time. Physicists on the other hand, are critical towards Penrose's pop science writings and dismiss his idiosyncratic views. Where other science popularizers see it as their task to dumb down generic ideas and the state of understanding in their field of science, Penrose aims for nothing less than to convince the reader of his latest theories. This is particularly the case with Cycles of Time in which he aims to explain his Conformal Cyclic Cosmology (CCC) model of the universe. No small task.

The good thing is that Penrose's wish to convey the CCC model, forces him to educate the reader on concepts such as entropy, the arrow of time, Hubble expansion, space-time metrics, conformal geometries, and conformal diagrams. In the first two parts of Cycles of Time, he explains these abstract...


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