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Mr Hoyle, call your office


DC Comics 1 34Cycles of TimeSir Roger Penrose, the brilliant Oxford mathematical physicist, who has made contributions to cosmology (in a famous paper with Stephen Hawking where he disproves the oscillating Big Bang [BB] theory), to the mind-matter problem (The Emperor’s New Mind), recreational mathematics, five-fold symmetry in crystals, and now revisits the Big Bang. In an interview with BBC HardTalk, he defends his book thesis (Cycles of Time) that the BB, despite never oscillating, can continue expanding and recycling forever. As Sir Roger puts it (at the 0:50 mark) “it is crazy enough to have a chance,” which echoes the comment the grandfather of Quantum Mechanics, Niels Bohr, made at a Columbia University meeting in 1958, when Wolfgang Pauli said he knew his theory was crazy. “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

In the 2007 interview (at the 6:00 mark) Sir Roger opines that the big mystery of the BB, is that all this organized universe (which includes galaxies, stars and us) must in some sense be higher in entropy, more disorganized, more random than the BB, making the BB a truly awesome state of order. One, just one, of many such organized features, is that the expansion rate of the BB would be disturbed if the universe, the entire universe, had so much as one sand grain more or less. Stephen Hawking calculated that at 1:10^60. In this tape, Sir Roger ups the ante to 1:10^123, “an absolutely ridiculously small number” he says. So we are all agreed, the BB is an exquisitely ordered explosion.

The host interjects (at 6:12), “That almost prompts the question, “Who organized it?” Sir Roger sidesteps the question in classic materialist fashion. “Some might put it that way. But I prefer to look at things in a scientific view.” Ahhh, so Sir Roger has already determined that the ID question is not science. And this is the root of his crazy theory on how to explain the information in the BB while avoiding the “Who?” question. At this point everything else in his theory becomes mere justification and details, for the assumptions are laid bare.

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kibitzer--I believe you are right on the interview about 10^123 zeroes. As for being a Platonist, there's no denying Plato thought matter was eternal, but still Plato had a Demi-Urge fashion it. I can't but take Sir Roger's comment about "Who?" as a denial of a demi-urge. This is about as un-Platonic as it gets, and also non-teleological. So however platonic he may be in other areas, in this area he is matter-centric (i.e. materialist) where it counts. Robert Sheldon
nullasalus: No, I would never define Penrose a materialist. IMO, he is just trying to give new perspectives on important subjects from a purely scientific point of view, avoiding to take a specific philosophical position on certain issues. I think he is doing a good job. gpuccio
One comment I'll add about Penrose: It doesn't seem correct to say that Penrose believes the universe has 'no purpose'. I recalled this quote of him via the wikipedia: 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. So maybe he's taking some kind of eastern view. I seem to recall in the past comparisons being made between his 'models' of the universe, and hindu/buddhist ones. Further, is it right to call Penrose a materialist? As I recall, he's explicitly a platonist. And it's hard to get further away from materialism than platonism. nullasalus
I noticed a disconnect between his evidence and his thinking in the last part of this 'unbelievable Christian radio' interview ('his theory' is about halfway through the tape where he puts forward his theory. It is funny, now that I remember, I remember thinking that his theory is not really that much better than the M-theory of Hawking that he had just finished so strongly debunking): http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid={320D8898-A8F0-4433-8934-D64DDEB8A21C} ,,,none-the-less, despite the disconnect, Here is Penrose himself commenting on the 1 in 10^10^123 figure: Roger Penrose - The Initial Entropy Of The Universe - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454718/ as well here is a video of Roger Penrose strongly criticizing Stephen Hawking's latest book: Roger Penrose Debunks Stephen Hawking's New Book The Grand Design - video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5278793/ bornagain77
I think you mean 1 in 10^(10^123) rather than merely 1 in 10^123. By the way, Penrose is considered one of the "20 Most Influential Scientists Alive Today" -- according to SuperScholar.org. Interesting company Penrose keeps. Dawkins is on this list as well. kibitzer

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