Thursday, April 26, 2012

Emperor's New Mind: Roger Penrose

Take a look at these:

Turing machines and Turing Test, artificial intelligence, complex numbers, Mandelbrot set, Gödel’s theorem, Euclidean geometry, Hamiltonian mechanics, special theory of relativity and general theory of relativity, Hilbert space, phase space, Riemann sphere, Schrödinger equation and Schrödinger’s cat, Dirac equation, Heisenberg uncertainty principle, classical physics, quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics, Big Bang Theory, entropy, twistor theory, EPR paradox, space-time singularities, quantum gravity, Weyl hypothesis, quantum computers, parallel processing, quasi crystals…

Each one of these topics demands a book of their own; and in fact, there are scores of volumes written on each of these. 

But what if I tell you that there is a single book that covers all of these topics (and many more!) in considerable detail? 

And, that the main theme of this book is neither physics nor cosmology, but the proposition that mind and consciousness are quite beyond the ‘deterministic’ nature of current computer algorithms? 
And, that this book is available just for 300/- (on Flipkart)? 

Welcome to the realm of “Emperor’s New Mind” written by Sir Roger Penrose, FRS.  Sir Roger Penrose is one of the leading mathematical physicists of our times. He has invented ( or as he likes to say, ‘discovered’) a number of concepts in advanced mathematics, (including Penrose triangle, twistor theory, Penrose tilings) and assisted Stephen Hawking in ground-breaking research on black holes, singularities, general relativity and cosmology. 

The author begins with an overview of a wide range of subjects such as Newtonian physics, special and general relativity, the philosophy and limitations of mathematics, quantum physics, cosmology, the nature of space-time, and structure of human brain. In each of the chapters, he describes how these topics relate to the central theme of the book. It is only in the last two chapters of the book that the author presents his hypothesis that human consciousness is non-algorithmic, and thus is not capable of being modeled by a conventional Turing machine-type of digital computer, which is a deterministic system that simply executes well-defined algorithms. 

Penrose observes that current form of computing is dominated by classical mechanics than the probabilistic realm of quantum mechanics, and claims that quantum mechanics will play an essential role in the understanding of human thought and consciousness.

The reader may be forewarned that this book is not for a layperson. As the author freely admits in his foreword, he has made use of equations and formulae unabashedly in the book. Although there are a few chapters, especially those related to mind and consciousness that are somewhat non-mathematical; to appreciate the book in its true depth and form, it is recommended to have a good foundation in physics and math. 

If you are willing to put in a bit of effort in grasping and digesting the truckload of new terms, ideas and concepts that each chapter comes loaded with, this book is a sheer pleasure to read. 

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