Roger Penrose

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Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us.
Thomas L. Holdcroft
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Sir Roger Penrose (born 8 August 1931) is an English mathematical physicist and Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, famous for his work in mathematical physics, cosmology, general relativity, and his musings on the nature of consciousness.


  • Some years ago, I wrote a book called The Emperor's New Mind and that book was describing a point of view I had about consciousness and why it was not something that comes about from complicated calculations. So we are not exactly computers. There's something else going on and the question of what this something else was would depend on some detailed physics and so I needed chapters in that book, which describes the physics as it is understood today. Well anyway, this book was written and various people commented to me and they said perhaps I could use this book for a course Physics for Poets or whatever it is if it didn't have all that contentious stuff about the mind in that. So I thought, well, that doesn't sound too hard, all I'll do is get out the scissor out and snip out all the bits, which have something to do with the mind. The trouble is that if I did that — and I actually didn't do it — the whole book fell to pieces really because the whole driving force behind the book was this quest to find out what could it be that constitutes consciousness in the physical world as we know it or as we hope to know it in future
  • Understanding is, after all, what science is all about – and science is a great deal more than mindless computation.
    • As quoted in The Golden Ratio by Mario Livio, p. 201

Quotes about Penrose

  • Although I'm regarded as a dangerous radical by particle physicists for proposing that there may be loss of quantum coherence, I'm definitely a conservative compared to Roger. I take the positivist viewpoint that a physical theory is just a mathematical model and that it is meaningless to ask whether it corresponds to reality. All that one can ask is that its predictions should be in agreement with observation. I think Roger is a Platonist at heart but he must answer for himself.

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