Book Review: Cycles of Time

I’ve been a huge fan of Roger Penrose’s ever since I read Shadows of the Mind when I was about 18. His views on human consciousness, the universe and… well, everything… are groundbreaking, but beyond that, it’s the way he manages to explain arguably the most complex subject in the world – quantum physics – in a manner that your average person could understand that really sets him apart from everyone else in his field. 

Cycles of Time veers away slightly from his books on consciousness and talks about the universe as a whole: specifically, its beginning and end. This is simultaneously fascinating and terrifying to me; my background is in psychology of religion, certainly not in physics, and I sometimes get a bit intimidated by the idea of reading theories of the universe written by people who are blatantly at least a hundred times more intelligent than I am.

More after the jump
Penrose somehow manages to walk the line very precisely. There are appendices at the back of the book which go into the ‘clever-person’ explanations: formulae and graphs that I couldn’t begin to decipher no matter how hard I tried. Throughout the main book, there are different bits of maths, and diagrams, and other clever things (yes, this is actually how my brain works: “Ooo, graph! Clever thing!” I’m a woman of simple means), and Penrose explains what they all mean, but somehow does so without making you think you’re a moron. Even if, in comparison to someone with a brain the size of a planet such as him, you quite possibly are. 

The universe view put forward in Cycles of Time is fascinating and the book is filled with snippets from the history of physics, both quantum and… well, normal. Even if you’re the kind of person who’s normally put off by science, you should definitely try this book out. You might be surprised at just how much you understand and enjoy it. 

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