“Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in Modern Physics”

Sir Roger Penrose gives public lecture at the Berlin Urania

August 24, 2005

"Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in Modern Physics, from Smallest to Largest Scales." On Saturday, 10 September at 3 p.m. at Urania 17, 10787 Berlin

Modern scientific theories raise many questions:  To what extent, for example, are string and M theory only scientific fashions or are they necessary for compelling physical and mathematical reasons? What about the rules of quantum mechanics - is our belief in them justified at all levels? Are models of the early universe such as inflationary expansion based on fantasy or reality? Are they well founded and to what extent are they supported by observations? The Big Bang holds great mysteries that may require some imagination, and Sir Roger Penrose will present his own fantastic vision of the entire possible history of the universe.

The well-known English mathematician will be a guest at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute) in early September. During this time he will give a public lecture in English at the Urania in Berlin.

Penrose has contributed many key ideas to mathematical physics. His investigations into the global geometry of space-time, for example, have laid the foundation for an entire field of research in mathematical physics and have enabled fundamental new insights into the limits of space and time (Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems). The spin networks he has conceived are an important building block in the attempts to unite quantum physics and general relativity within the framework of so-called loop quantum gravity. But Penrose's interests are much broader - he has long been involved in the mathematical-physical problems of human consciousness and artificial intelligence. He has already published several popular scientific papers on this subject. Among them he proposes a controversially discussed model based on yet unknown quantum mechanical effects, which he locates in the microtubules of human cell nuclei and the interface with the neuron. As a consequence of this speculative theory, physical processes in the border area between classical physics and quantum mechanics in a highly developed nervous system lead to what we perceive as our “consciousness”.

Roger Penrose is Rouse Ball Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, England. He is held in the highest regard worldwide for his achievements in the field of mathematical physics, in particular his research on the theory of relativity. He has been awarded the Eddington, Dirac, Albert Einstein and Royal Medal of the Royal Society, among others. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1972 and a member of the Order of Merit since 2000. The Order is limited to 25 members. They are appointed exclusively by the Queen of England.

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