Thursday, 8 August 2013

Britain is still a county for and says "Happy Birthday" to an old professor of mathematical physics called Roger Penrose

Roger, who is a Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University and is clearly a very, very clever old academic is 82 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Roger, that he :

* was born in Colchester, Essex, has a  brother who is also a mathematician and another who is a chess grandmaster, left school and went University College London and graduated with.... yes, a first class degree in mathematics.

* at the age of 27 in 1958, earned his doctorate at Cambridge University with a thesis on 'tensor methods in algebraic geometry' and 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 and in turn Roger's work inspired his 'Wateferfall' (right) and 'Ascending and Descending' (at the bottom of the page).

* in 1965, at Cambridge, showed that 'singularities' such as black holes, could be formed from the gravitational collapse of immense, dying stars and had his work extended by Stephen Hawking in the shape of the 'Penrose - Hawking singularity theorems'.

*  in 1989 in 'The Emperor's New Mind' argued that known laws of physics are inadequate to explain the phenomenon of consciousness.

* in 1991 in the film, 'A Brief History of Time' said : "I think I would say that the universe has a purpose, it's not somehow just there by chance ... some people, I think, take the view that the universe is just there and it runs along – it's a bit like it just sort of computes, and we happen somehow by accident to find ourselves in this thing, but 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."

* in 1998 featured in the documentary, 'Is God a Number ?'

* in 2004 after years of productive theorising released 'The Road to Reality : A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe' and the following year led the 'Philosophy of Science Convention' at the University of California, Santa Barbara where actor, John Cleese, who had studied 'A' Level Maths, Physics and Chemistry at school, was in the audience.

* makes the case for three kinds of existence : normal physical, mental and the mathematical world and argues for three mysteries :
- how is it that the physical world accords with mathematics to such a fantastic degree ?
- how is it when you have physical structures of the right kind like human brains, mentality has a deep relation to certain physical structures ?
- the mystery of our access to the world of mathematics.

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