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Roger Penrose

Roger Penrose’s books include The Emperor’s New Mind, which was published in 1989. He is Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at Oxford.

Out of a job in Aberdeen

Roger Penrose, 26 September 1991

James Clerk Maxwell, a Scotsman who lived from 1831 to 1879, was a scientist of outstanding stature. Bearing his name, apart from the famous ‘demon’, is the set of fundamental equations that he discovered, governing the behaviour of electricity, magnetism and light. He also found, among many other things, the basic equation for the distribution of velocities of the molecules in a gas in equilibrium, and made other profound contributions to the statistical study of the molecules in a gas, relating to the Second Law of thermodynamics – which is what Maxwell’s ‘demon’ was all about. Earlier, he had worked out the dynamics of Saturn’s rings (mainly in 1856, showing, in particular, that the rings as a whole could not be solid annular objects, but must be composed of very large numbers of tiny bodies): work which found dramatic confirmation recently in the pictures sent back from the Voyager space-probes. In addition to his important contributions to the study of physical fields and of fluid systems composed of myriads of particles, he contributed to the study of colour vision and colour blindness, and produced (in 1861) the first ever photograph in full colour. He is now generally accepted as the greatest theoretical physicist of the period between Newton and Einstein, even if, to the public at large, Maxwell’s name seems to be almost unknown. Perhaps it says something about our cultural values that, in informed society, people may never have heard of a scientist such as Maxwell when even a British schoolboy would be considered grossly uneducated if he had never heard of Dickens.’

Going Supernova

David Kaiser, 17 February 2011

Twenty years ago, the science writer Dennis Overbye published a marvellous book, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos, in which he traced the development of cosmology – the scientific study of the...

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The mathematical universe

George Ellis, 26 January 2006

Roger Penrose is one of the most creative and original mathematical physicists in Britain. This remarkable book is the result of many decades of reflection on our scientific understanding of the...

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Big Bang to Big Crunch

John Leslie, 1 August 1996

The Nature of Space and Time contains six lectures-three by Stephen Hawking, three by Roger Penrose – and a closing Hawking-Penrose debate. As Penrose indicates, it might be viewed as...

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I am not a computer

Owen Flanagan, 7 September 1995

Years ago, a colleague of limited intellectual powers accosted me with the charge that I had been telling students that the ‘mind was meat’. This was my colleague’s way of...

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