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Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe


Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe Cover





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.

Product Details

Penrose, Roger
Alfred A. Knopf
Astrophysics & Space Science
Astronomy - General
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 in 1.3375 lb

Related Subjects

Science and Mathematics » Astronomy » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Cosmology
Science and Mathematics » Physics » General
Science and Mathematics » Physics » Popular

Cycles of Time: An Extraordinary New View of the Universe Used Hardcover
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Product details 304 pages Alfred A. Knopf - English 9780307265906 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "Controversial but intriguing....Well worth the effort."
"Review" by , "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."
"Review" by , "The hyper-density of this book made my brain feel simultaneously wiped out and dazzled."
"Review" by , "Radical....A surprising and unorthodox work disguised in the jacket of a popular science book, Cycles of Time should prove both deeply enlightening and just as deeply mystifying for anyone who dares to follow along."
"Review" by , "An intellectual thrill ride....As Penrose builds a solid foundation for his argument in analyzing universal entropic accumulation and Newton's Second Law, the reader senses something tremendous looming — mysterious and compelling as a black hole....A cosmological page-turner."
"Review" by , "Profound....This fascinating book will surely become a classic in the history of cosmology."
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