Shares

Most people think of the late Stephen Hawking as the ultimate scientist. Continuing his work even when strapped to a wheelchair and not being able to move or communicate without the help of technology. However great Hawking was, he too had a mentor: Roger Penrose (b. 1931). Penrose is not as widely known as his fellow scientist, but he is one of the towering figures of twentieth-century mathematics, physics and cosmology.

He is best known for his Penrose Tiles, which are, roughly put, geometrical shapes in a pattern that does not repeat itself. These inspired Dutch artist M.C. Escher to produce, for instance, ‘Waterval’ (‘Waterfall’), a representation of an impossible object.

Academically, Penrose is known for an inordinate amount of impressive ideas (among which are the Twistor theory and his contributions to the geometry of spacetime), but he also tried to compile the science done so far in books such as ‘The road to reality: a complete guide to the laws of the universe‘. A professor of logic once told me about that book: “I hold degrees in philosophy, physics and mathematics, and I still find this book very difficult.

But that should not put you off, because Penrose has also written books aimed at a larger audience. His book ‘The emperor’s new mind‘ is a brilliantly clear and convincing exposition of the philosophical problem of Artificial Intelligence. Surely, someone who can both speak to the masses and the masters, deserves our attention.

And yesterday the kind Sir sat down with the world’s busiest and arguably one of the best conversationalists, Joe Rogan. As Joe points out at the very start, he mainly wants to discuss the concept of consciousness, so prepare for a ride.