Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review of "The Road to Reality" by Roger Penrose

So recently I managed to buy some great books about physics at a low price and one of them was another great book by Sir Roger Penrose "The Road to Reality".

My first impression when I saw the book at the store was that it was huge, and I mean huge, it has almost 1100 pages. So if you're thinking of buying this book be ready for long weeks of pure maths and science fun. But is it really that fun?

The book starts with some remarks from the author about the notation, which is useful, and some remarks about overall math usage in the book, which is also handy. The prologue is really amazing, as it drags you in, by telling a short story how Pythagoras, who had a hunger for knowledge, joined the brotherhood of 571 wisemen, and began his journey to secrets of mathematics and science. At this point you feel like reading an interesting novel that shows the fun side of science as well as dragging you in with a mysterious narrative. But what is the rest of the book about?

Well, it's about maths and physics of course. It has basically everything covered. And I mean everything! Starting with the roots of physics and mathematics, ending with string theory, quantum mechanics, general and special theories of relativity and even some speculative modern science theories. The book is divided in 34 chapters in total. Also it has some great diagrams and drawings, which really help you understand the physics in some parts of the book. The final part of the book contains some thoughts by the author about the nature of reality itself.

Naturally, every layman would like to know how much maths is used in the book. And the answer is - not that much. But I have to tell you, it's get's quite confusing after a couple of first chapters. And as you progress through the book, maths equations, diagrams and some ideas become incredibly confusing and hard. So I wouldn't recommend this book for those who hate maths or get a headache from even a simple equation. Also the physics is also quite hard, so I recommend this one only for experts.

Also it's worth noticing that almost all concepts of physics are explained from a perspective of mathematical theories and ideas, after all Roger Penrose is famous for mathematical physics, so be ready for more maths than physics.

So the final score:

Content: 9.7/10 ( contains almost everything you need to know about physics )
Beginner "Friendliness":  2/10
Narrative: 6/10 ( start's with a bang, but eventually ends up as another book written in a "dry science" style)
Illustrations: 9/10 (contains some amazing geometrical figures and diagrams)

Overall score 6.7/10

Final verdict: a great book for experts or hardcore science and maths fans, however, a little two confusing for the laymen.


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