Sir Roger Penrose, a theoretical physicist, a student and colleague of Albert Einstein, was knighted by the Queen of England for his work on the theory of relativity, specifically, for the suggestion that inside a black hole there must hide a singularity, that is a point in which matter is so compressed that its density reaches infinity. Together with Stephen Hawking, Penrose proved that in the past all of our Universe must have looked like the centre of a black hole - it was infinitely dense and hot. They also proved that black holes can be formed from the gravitational collapse of dying starts.
Sir Roger Penrose has also been involved in the research of the brain and consciousness. He has put forward a provocative thesis that consciousness can be explained solely by reference to phenomena occurring in the brain at the quantum level. This is due to the fact that the brain operates at a non-algorithmic level, that is completely differently than e.g. a computer. That is why we will never "copy" our minds, nor will we mimic them on any computer, no matter how great computing power it could have.
"A machine faced with the task of finding two even numbers whose sum is odd will try to do that indefinitely. It works by the following algorithm: take two even numbers, add them and check whether the sum can be divided by two. If not, the task has been completed. If it can be divided, keep trying: take two even numbers… In this way, the computer checks all possible pairs of even numbers and, obviously - even if it is a very fast computer, its work will never end"- said Penrose during his lecture entitled "Science and the Brain" delivered in Warsaw ten years ago. "For a human, it is clear that there is no point searching for such numbers: the sum of even numbers is always even. And this is the mysterious concept of "comprehension". Mathematics is not just about underlying premises and mechanical inference rules that leave no room for imagination and flash of insight."
For several years, Penrose has been working on the cyclic theory of the universe. According to this theory, the Big Bang was not the beginning of everything, but only one of an infinite number of "development" cycles of the cosmos, which continually switches from an expansion phase to a contraction one.
This is an attractive theory, because it does not force us to believe that something (the Universe) was formed suddenly out of nothing (as a result of an explosion of something unknown caused by something that is unknown either). Yet, already at first glance, it is in contradiction with the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy in the world always increases. Those who want to contradict this law have to try really hard to prove they are right. Milk "itself" pours from a bottle and makes a mess in the kitchen. The reverse process never occurs spontaneously. After all, no one has ever seen spilled milk get back to the bottle by itself.
Since everything is moving towards a mess, order must have been at the very beginning – i.e. at the time of the Big Bang. But how would it have been possible for perfect and unique order to exist in the very first moment of enormous confusion and chaos, heat and rapid changes? Is each new stage of the cyclic Universe going to be more and more chaotic?
These and other questions will be answered by Sir Roger Penrose during his open lecture at the Copernicus Science Centre.*
The lecture will be held on 13 July (Saturday) at 11.00 a.m. The lecture entitled "A New Cosmological Copernican Revolution?" is going to last about 45 minutes. It is going to be followed by a discussion. The lecture will be translated into Polish. Entry through the Conference Centre. Admission is free!
*Sir Roger Penrose visits Warsaw in the framework of GR20/Amaldi10, organised by the Polish Society on Relativity (Polskie Towarzystwo Relatywistyczne) and the University of Warsaw.