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Sir Roger Penrose, OM, FRS (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. He has received a number of prizes and awards, including the 1988 Wolf Prize for physics which he shared with Stephen Hawking for their contribution to our understanding of the universe.^{[1]} He is renowned for his work in mathematical physics, in particular his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. He is also a recreational mathematician and philosopher.
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Born in Colchester, Essex, England, Roger Penrose is a son of Lionel S. Penrose and Margaret Leathes.^{[2]} Penrose is the brother of mathematician Oliver Penrose and of chess Grandmaster Jonathan Penrose. Penrose was precocious as a child.^{[3]} He attended University College School. Penrose graduated with a first class degree in mathematics from University College London. In 1955, while still a student, Penrose reinvented the generalized matrix inverse (also known as MoorePenrose inverse).^{[4]} Penrose earned his Ph.D. at Cambridge (St John's College) in 1958, writing a thesis on "tensor methods in algebraic geometry" under algebraist and geometer John A. Todd. He devised and popularised the Penrose triangle in the 1950s, describing it as "impossibility in its purest form" and exchanged material with the artist M. C. Escher, whose earlier depictions of impossible objects partly inspired it. In 1965 at Cambridge, Penrose proved that singularities (such as black holes) could be formed from the gravitational collapse of immense, dying stars.^{[5]}
In 1967, Penrose invented the twistor theory which maps geometric objects in Minkowski space into the 4dimensional complex space with the metric signature (2,2). In 1969 he conjectured the cosmic censorship hypothesis. This proposes (rather informally) that the universe protects us from the inherent unpredictability of singularities (such as the one in the centre of a black hole) by hiding them from our view behind an event horizon. This form is now known as the "weak censorship hypothesis"; in 1979, Penrose formulated a stronger version called the "strong censorship hypothesis". Together with the BKL conjecture and issues of nonlinear stability, settling the censorship conjectures is one of the most important outstanding problems in general relativity. Also from 1979 dates Penrose's influential Weyl curvature hypothesis on the initial conditions of the observable part of the Universe and the origin of the second law of thermodynamics.^{[6]} Penrose and James Terrell independently realized that objects travelling near the speed of light will appear to undergo a peculiar skewing or rotation. This effect has come to be called the Terrell rotation or PenroseTerrell rotation.^{[7]}^{[8]}
Roger Penrose is well known for his 1974 discovery of Penrose tilings, which are formed from two tiles that can only tile the plane nonperiodically, and are the first tilings to exhibit fivefold rotational symmetry. Penrose developed these ideas based on the article Deux types fondamentaux de distribution statistique^{[9]} (1938; an English translation Two Basic Types of Statistical Distribution) by Czech geographer, demographer and statistician Jaromír Korčák. In 1984, such patterns were observed in the arrangement of atoms in quasicrystals.^{[10]} Another noteworthy contribution is his 1971 invention of spin networks, which later came to form the geometry of spacetime in loop quantum gravity. He was influential in popularizing what are commonly known as Penrose diagrams (causal diagrams). In 2004 Penrose released The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe, a 1,099page book aimed at giving a comprehensive guide to the laws of physics. He has proposed a novel interpretation of quantum mechanics.^{[11]} Penrose is the Francis and Helen Pentz Distinguished (visiting) Professor of Physics and Mathematics at Pennsylvania State University.^{[12]}
Penrose is married to Vanessa Thomas, with whom he has one child. He has three sons from a previous marriage to American Joan Isabel Wedge (1959).
Penrose has written controversial books on the connection between fundamental physics and human (or animal) consciousness. In The Emperor's New Mind (1989), he argues that known laws of physics are inadequate to explain the phenomenon of consciousness. Penrose hints at the characteristics this new physics may have and specifies the requirements for a bridge between classical and quantum mechanics (what he terms correct quantum gravity, CQG). He claims that the present computer is unable to have intelligence because it is an algorithmically deterministic system. He argues against the viewpoint that the rational processes of the mind are completely algorithmic and can thus be duplicated by a sufficiently complex computer—this is in contrast to views, e.g., artificial intelligence, that thought can be simulated. Penrose notes that a process can conceivably be deterministic without being algorithmic. This is based on claims that consciousness transcends formal logic systems because things such as the insolubility of the halting problem and Gödel's incompleteness theorem restrict an algorithmically based logic from traits such as mathematical insight. Penrose believes that such deterministic nonalgorithmic processes may come in play in the quantum mechanical wave function reduction, and may be harnessed by the brain. These claims were originally made by the philosopher John Lucas of Merton College, Oxford.
In 1994, Penrose followed up The Emperor's New Mind with Shadows of the Mind and in 1997 with The Large, the Small and the Human Mind, further updating and expanding his theories. Marvin Minsky, responded by noting that Penrose "tries to show, in chapter after chapter, that human thought cannot be based on any known scientific principle." In contrast, Minsky proposes that men are, in fact, machines, whose functioning, although complex, is fully explainable on the basis of current physics, without invoking any new or unknown scientific principles. Accordingly, Minsky maintains that "one can carry that quest [the quest for scientific explanation] too far by only seeking new basic principles instead of attacking the real detail. This is what I see in Penrose's quest for a new basic principle of physics that will account for consciousness."^{[13]}
Penrose and Stuart Hameroff have speculated that consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects in microtubules, which they dubbed OrchOR (orchestrated objective reduction). But Max Tegmark, in a paper in Physical Review E, calculated that the time scale of neuron firing and excitations in microtubules is slower than the decoherence time by a factor of at least 10,000,000,000. The reception of the paper is summed up by this statement in his support: "Physicists outside the fray, such as IBM's John A. Smolin, say the calculations confirm what they had suspected all along. 'We're not working with a brain that's near absolute zero. It's reasonably unlikely that the brain evolved quantum behavior', he says." The Tegmark paper has been widely cited by critics of the PenroseHameroff proposal. It has been claimed by Hameroff to be based on a number of incorrect assumptions (see linked paper below from Hameroff, Scott Hagan and Jack Tuszyński), but Tegmark in turn has argued that the critique is invalid (see rejoinder link below). In particular, Hameroff points out the peculiarity that Tegmark's formula for the decoherence time includes a factor of T^{2} in the numerator, meaning that higher temperatures would lead to longer decoherence times. Tegmark's rejoinder keeps the factor of T^{2} for the decoherence time.
In his book, The Web's Awake, Phillip Tetlow states that Penrose's ideas about the human thought process are not widely accepted in scientific circles, citing Minsky's criticisms, and quoting science journalist Charles Seife, who notes that Penrose is one of a handful of scientists for whom the nature of consciousness suggests a quantum process. ^{[14]}
Penrose has stated that he does not hold to any religious doctrine.^{[15]} In the film A Brief History of Time he stated: "There is a certain sense in which I would say the universe has a purpose. It's not there just somehow by chance. Some people take the view that the universe is simply there and it runs along–it's a bit as though it just sort of computes, and we happen by accident to find ourselves in this thing. I don't think that's a very fruitful or helpful way of looking at the universe, I think that there is something much deeper about it, about its existence, which we have very little inkling of at the moment."^{[16]}
Penrose has been awarded many prizes for his contributions to science. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1972. In 1975, Stephen Hawking and Penrose were jointly awarded the Eddington Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. In 1985, he was awarded the Royal Society Royal Medal. Along with Stephen Hawking, he was awarded the prestigious Wolf Foundation Prize for Physics in 1988. In 1989 he was awarded the Dirac Medal and Prize of the British Institute of Physics. In 1990 Penrose was awarded the Albert Einstein Medal for outstanding work related to the work of Albert Einstein by the Albert Einstein Society. In 1991, he was awarded the Naylor Prize of the London Mathematical Society. From 1992 to 1995 he served as President of the International Society on General Relativity and Gravitation. In 1994, Penrose was knighted for services to science.^{[17]} In 1998, he was elected Foreign Associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. In 2000 he was appointed to the Order of Merit. In 2004 he was awarded the De Morgan Medal for his wide and original contributions to mathematical physics. To quote the citation from the London Mathematical Society:
In 2005 Penrose was awarded an honorary doctorate (Honoris Causa) by Warsaw University and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), and in 2006 by the University of York. In 2008 Penrose was awarded the Copley Medal. He is also a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association and one of the patrons of the Oxford University Scientific Society.
Penrose also wrote forewords to Quantum Aspects of Life and Zee's book Fearful Symmetry.
Sir Roger Penrose (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist and Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, famous for his work in mathematical physics, cosmology, general relativity, and his musings on the nature of consciousness.
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This is the kind of obviousness that a child can see—though the child may, later in life, become browbeaten into believing that the obvious problems are "nonproblems", to be argued into nonexistence by careful reasoning and clever choices of definition. Children sometimes see things clearly that are obscured in later life. We often forget the wonder that we felt as children when the cares of the "real world" have begun to settle on our shoulders. Children are not afraid to pose basic questions that may embarrass us, as adults, to ask. What happens to each of our streams of consciousness after we die; where was it before we were born; might we become, or have been, someone else; why do we perceive at all; why are we here; why is there a universe here at all in which we can actually be? These are puzzles that tend to come with the awakenings of awareness in any one of us—and, no doubt, with the awakening of selfawareness, within whichever creature or other entity it first came.
Sir Roger Penrose, OM, FRS (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist and Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford and Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College. He is renowned for his work in mathematical physics, in particular his contributions to general relativity and cosmology. He is also a recreational mathematician and philosopher. Roger Penrose is the son of scientist Lionel S. Penrose and Margaret Leathes, and the brother of mathematician Oliver Penrose and correspondence chess grandmaster Jonathan Penrose. He was born in Colchester, Essex, England.
