Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe

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This groundbreaking book presents a new perspective on three of cosmology’s essential questions: What came before the Big Bang? What is the source of order in our universe? And what cosmic future awaits us?
Penrose shows how the expected fate of our ever-accelerating and expanding universe—heat death or ultimate entropy—can actually be reinterpreted as the conditions that will begin a new “Big Bang.” He details the basic principles ...

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Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe

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This groundbreaking book presents a new perspective on three of cosmology’s essential questions: What came before the Big Bang? What is the source of order in our universe? And what cosmic future awaits us?
Penrose shows how the expected fate of our ever-accelerating and expanding universe—heat death or ultimate entropy—can actually be reinterpreted as the conditions that will begin a new “Big Bang.” He details the basic principles beneath our universe, explaining various standard and non-standard cosmological models, the fundamental role of the cosmic microwave background, the paramount significance of black holes, and other basic building blocks of contemporary physics. Intellectually thrilling and widely accessible, Cycles of Time is a welcome new contribution to our understanding of the universe from one of our greatest mathematicians and thinkers.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Oxford University professor Roger Penrose qualifies as one Big Thinkers whose thoughts don't go unnoticed. His 1100+-page Road to Reality (ambitiously subtitled The Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe has sold over 110,000 copies and his Emperor's New Mind hasn't simply generated decades of learned debate on the physical processes of consciousness; it's wormed its way into popular media. Similarly, Penrose's new Cycles of Time promises to reframe views of the past and ultimate future of the universe. Drawing on a radiant diversity of cosmological models, he postulates a radical new Big Bang down our long, winding road.

From the Publisher
“A surprising and unorthodox work. . . . Deeply enlightening.”
     —The Wall Street Journal

“The hyper-density of this book made my brain feel simultaneously wiped out and dazzled.”
     —Anthony Doerr, Best Science Books of the Year, The Boston Globe

“An intellectual thrill ride. . . . There’s no science fiction here, no imaginative filling in the gaps. There is, however, a very strong scientific case for expanding the boundaries of our thinking.” —Washington Independent Book Review
“Science needs more people like Penrose, willing and able to point out the flaws in fashionable models from a position of authority and to signpost alternative roads to follow.” —The Independent

“If you’ll forgive a skiing metaphor, Cycles of Time is a black diamond of a book. But like all steep slopes, sometimes you take a moment from your struggles and look up, and in front of you is an utterly gorgeous view.” —The Boston Globe
“Truly extraordinary. . . . This fascinating book will surely become a classic in the history of cosmology.” —Choice
 “Of interest to anyone who is interested in the world, how it works, and how it got here. . . . The best thing to do is to take a deep breath, grab a copy of this fascinating book, and plunge right in.” —New York Journal of Books
 “We must understand why the universe began in an incredibly special state, so well ordered that 14 billion years later, the universe still has not reached maximum disorder. Penrose is at his best when he explains this deep and beautiful mystery, and the book may be worth reading for this chapter alone.” —Science
“A genuinely new idea about the origins of the universe . . . [which] must be taken seriously.” —The Scotsman
 “As uncondescending in style . . . as his previous books. . . . [There are] many pleasures to be had.” —The Sunday Times (London)

Publishers Weekly
Where did the universe come from, why is it the way it is, and what is its ultimate fate? Eminent Oxford mathematician Penrose (The Road to Reality) finds "a profound oddness underlying the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the very nature of the Big Bang" theory of the universe’s origins. In response, he proposes tweaking the old theory to answer these questions. Armed with some fairly hairy math (logarithms, tensor calculus), Penrose argues that increasing entropy, a natural consequence of the Big Bang, supports space-time models in which an increasing number of hungry black holes should yield matter-spewing white holes as well. Instead, we have an entirely too uniform universe more suited to a "conformal cyclic cosmology" where black holes grow and eventually "pop," yielding a fresh new Big Bang in an infinite "succession of aeons." Although Penrose makes provocative arguments for his challenging new theory (relegating his denser mathematical explorations to the appendixes), readers will need a solid grounding in college-level math and physics to wade through this intriguing work. B&w illus. (May)
Kirkus Reviews

Award-winning physicist Penrose (The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, 2006, etc.) challenges current theoretical models of the Big Bang.

The author reprises the discovery of the Doppler shift by Edwin Hubble, which established the fact that our universe was expanding at an increasing rate, and he explains how this allowed astronomers to extrapolate backward to a moment approximately 14 billion years ago "when the matter of the universe would have to have been all together at its starting point." In 1964, the observation of the cosmic background radiation allowed scientists to elaborate a detailed model of the evolution of the universe, beginning in the fraction of a second after an explosive Big Bang. Penrose points out that this picture is problematic because it appears to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Except for minor violations, entropy—a measure of disorder—always increases over time. At the instant of the Big Bang, entropy would be extremely high, then energy would be decreased as the universe entered its expansionary phase, elementary particles formed and gravity kicked in. The author suggests that what is called the Big Bang was not an explosion but a transition point from an earlier cycle of the universe. To resolve this theoretical conundrum, he suggests that in the far-distant future, stars and galaxies will be compressed into tremendously massive black holes that will clump together and ultimately disappear leaving only cosmic radiation in their wake, after which a new expansionary cycle will begin.

A controversial but intriguing theory that will challenge readers but is well worth the effort.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307278463
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 359,903
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Penrose is Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. He has received numerous prizes and awards, most notably the Wolf Foundation Prize in physics, which he shared with Stephen Hawking, and The Royal Society's Copley Medal. He is the author of three previous books, including The Emperor’s New Mind. He lives in Oxford, England.

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Read an Excerpt

Cycles of Time

An Extraordinary New View of the Universe
By Roger Penrose


Copyright © 2012 Roger Penrose
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780307278463


One of the deepest mysteries of our universe is the puzzle of whence it came.
When I entered Cambridge University as a mathematics graduate student, in the early 1950s, a fascinating cosmological theory was in the ascendant, known as the steady-state model. According to this scheme, the universe had no beginning, and it remained more-or-less the same, overall, for all time. The steady-state universe was able to achieve this, despite its expansion, because the continual depletion of material arising from the universe’s expansion is taken to be compensated by the continual creation of new material, in the form of an extremely diffuse hydrogen gas. My friend and mentor at Cambridge, the cosmologist Dennis Sciama, from whom I learnt the thrill of so much new physics, was at that time a strong proponent of steady-state cosmology, and he impressed upon me the beauty and power of that remarkable scheme of things.
Yet this theory has not stood the test of time. About 10 years after I had first entered Cambridge, and had become well acquainted with the theory, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discovered, to their own surprise, an all-pervading electromagnetic radiation, coming in from all directions, now referred to as the cosmic microwave background or CMB. This was soon identified, by Robert Dicke, as a predicted implication of the ‘flash’ of a Big-Bang origin to the universe, now presumed to have taken place some 14 thousand million years ago—an event that had been first seriously envisaged by Monsignor Georges Lemaître in 1927, as an implication of his work on Einstein’s 1915 equations of general relativity and early observational indications of an expansion of the universe. With great courage and scientific honesty (when the CMB data became better established), Dennis Sciama publicly repudiated his earlier views and strongly supported the idea of the Big Bang origin to the universe from then on.
Since that time, cosmology has matured from a speculative pursuit into an exact science, and intense analysis of the CMB—coming from highly detailed data, generated by numerous superb experiments—has formed a major part of this revolution. However, many mysteries remain, and much speculation continues to be part of this endeavour. In this book, I provide descriptions not only of the main models of classical relativistic cosmology but also of various developments and puzzling issues that have arisen since then. Most particularly, there is a profound oddness underlying the Second Law of thermodynamics and the very nature of the Big Bang. In relation to this, I am putting forward a body of speculation of my own, which brings together many strands of different aspects of the universe we know.
My own unorthodox approach dates from the summer of 2005, though much of the detail is more recent. This account goes seriously into some of the geometry, but I have refrained from including, in the main body of the text, anything serious in the way of equations or other technicalities, all these being banished to the Appendices. The experts, only, are referred to those parts of the book. The scheme that I am now arguing for here is indeed unorthodox, yet it is based on geometrical and physical ideas which are very soundly based. Although something entirely different, this proposal turns out to have strong echoes of the old steady-state model!
I wonder what Dennis Sciama would have made of it.


Excerpted from Cycles of Time by Roger Penrose Copyright © 2012 by Roger Penrose. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgements xi

Prologue 1

Part 1 The Second Law and its underlying mystery 9

Part 2 The oddly special nature of the Big Bang 57

Part 3 Conformal cyclic cosmology 137

Epilogue 220

Appendices 221

Notes 252

Index 273

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2012

    Well written. For anyone interested in modern physic and astronomy

    The equations are kept in appendix at the end of the book (for those really interested). Some understanding of mathematics and physic can be valuable fully enjoy this book. The approach is interesting and the author take it slowly and build bit by bit the argumentation, each piece adding to the understanding and bringing the next one.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2012

    Can't relly give an eval as the "sample" had a few par

    Can't relly give an eval as the "sample" had a few paragraphs of the first chapter.  The Table of zContents and the other "text" does not give a potential reader any opportunity to adequately evaluate the book.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    cycles of time :)

    ok they should at least let us read a chapter

    3 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2015

    Recommended only for math/pysics majors

    I found the book very difficult to understand, even when I tried hard to comprehend the different explanations given. I would only say that, unless you are a math or physics major, you better stay away from it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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