The Large, the Small and the Human Mind

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Roger Penrose's views on the large-scale physics of the universe, the small-scale world of quantum physics and the physics of the mind are controversial and widely discussed. The Large, the Small and the Human Mind is a fascinating and accessible summary of Roger Penrose's current thinking on those areas of physics in which he feels there are major unresolved problems. It is also a stimulating introduction to the radically new concepts which he believes will be fruitful in understanding the workings of the brain and the nature of the human mind.

The author of the provocative works The Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind now presents a masterful summary of the complex ideas presented in those books, highlighting areas of research where he perceives there are major unsolved problems that strike at the heart of our understanding of the laws of physics. Illustrated with cartoons & diagrams. 3 tables. 216 pp.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Oxford physicist and mathematician Penrose (The Emperor's New Mind; Shadows of the Mind), has something to say about general relativity, quantum physics and artificial intelligence, we would do well to listen. So, too, with his Cambridge counterpart, Hawking; Boston University professor emeritus of philosophy and physics Shimony; and the director of the London School of Economics center for the philosophy of the natural and social sciences, Cartwright, whose responses to Penrose's thesis appear in this collection of talks given as Cambridge's 1995 Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Despite the many heady and humorous diagrams and illustrations and crystal-clear prose, the enormous complexity of the thesis presents formidable obstacles to the lay reader. Penrose does not shy away from introducing mathematical formulae, though he lets his audience know that understanding them is not necessary to comprehending his thesis. Perhaps inevitably, though, the lecture format means that Penrose uses complex equations and inadequately explained technical terminology to move his thesis along at a speed proper for an audience of listeners instead of readers. The thesis itself eludes simplification because it comprises several points. Among them is that mathematics is not merely a description of reality but a separate (Penrose suggests Platonic) reality unto itself. Another is that mathematics demonstrates its excellence (aesthetic and scientific) as a Platonic reality by its accuracy as a description of reality. And there are more points of interest, on lacunae in quantum theory and on the inability of computers to generate mathematical proofs. All continue Penrose's arguments elsewhere, making these lectures, in one sense, duplicative. On the other hand, there is hardly anything wrong with repetition when dealing with a topic so interesting. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
'To see a scientist of Penrose's ability, stature and achievement toss large parts of modern physics into the air as though juggling balls and try to keep them aloft while marshalling them into a coherent pattern is a thing to behold. It is a wonderful illustration of a first-rate scientist doing what first-rate scientists have always done: make bold conjectures and display them for others to confirm, refute or amend.' Keith Devlin, New Scientist

'When Oxford physicist and mathematician Penrose … has something to say about general relativity, quantum physics and artificial intelligence, we would do well to listen.' Publishers Weekly

'The book is an attractive and stimulating introduction to some fascinating issues, on some of which (such as the intelligibility of the universe) theists would certainly be able to offer some alternative insights.' John Polkinghorne, Science and Christian Belief

'… a very interesting and stimulating book.' Brian Josephson, The Times Higher Education Supplement

'… a stimulating and compact review of Penrose's own thinking.' Bernard Dixon, The Independent

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521785723
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Series: Canto Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,428,793
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Table of Contents

Notes on the Contributors
Ch. 1 Space-time and Cosmology 1
Ch. 2 The Mysteries of Quantum Physics 50
Ch. 3 Physics and the Mind 93
Ch. 4 On Mentality, Quantum Mechanics and the Actualization of Potentialities 144
Ch. 5 Why Physics? 161
Ch. 6 The Objections of an Unashamed Reductionist 169
Ch. 7 Response by Roger Penrose 173
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