Sir Roger Penrose, Emeritus Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, is in Calcutta to speak at a five-day symposium to commemorate 75 Years of Quantum Entanglement, by the SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences.
Metro requested Sandip K. Chakrabarti, a PhD from the University of Chicago and a Tolman Fellow at Caltech, now a Senior Professor at the SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, to interview Penrose. Here’s Part II of the chat:
Sandip K. Chakrabarti: At some point of time, you and Hawking talked of singularities which were considered to be the models for big-bang and black holes. What you are trying to say now is that the physical world is vastly different from the mathematical world. So would you say that black hole singularities may not exist?
Roger Penrose: The black hole singularities cannot be removed, while through certain mathematical tricks the big-bang singularity may be avoided.
SKC: Though black holes cannot be seen, there are circumstantial evidences that they do exist, both massive and stellar mass types. Still the question remains: is there really a true singularity inside the event horizon?
RP: Yes, there is a singularity as dictated by the solution of Einstein’s equations. This cannot be avoided. But I am not ruling out the possibilities that some quantum process may take over.
SKC: Nowadays you are also talking of understanding the mysteries of consciousness. In a nutshell how do you approach the problem, given that consciousness is not really a mathematical term? Do you have an equation for consciousness?
RP: I have no equation for consciousness. But I believe that to understand consciousness we need to go beyond the present mathematics.
SKC: You have been dealing with macroscopic system such as the Universe and microscopic system such as consciousness. As Einstein said: “I want to know God’s thoughts, the rest are details.” Is that what you also think?
RP: Well, to be honest, I have dealt with a new concept called Twistors which deal with more fundamental particles. In my view the consciousness may be limited by the size of the brains, its neurons, tubules etc. but fundamental particles are even finer. Of course, I also think “the rest are details”.
SKC: Your view is that once we seek beauty we would reach the truth. But the pace of reaching symmetry or becoming beautiful may vary. For instance, in Darwinian theory of the “survival of the fittest” in living kingdom, evolution is slow and steady. In social life the changes may be slow but they may lead to revolutions as stated in the Dialectics. Indeed, constant evolution, be it slow or fast, is supposed to be the rule according to these philosophers. There is no scope for beginning, as in the big-bang, or end, as in the formation of a black hole, In your model of the Universe, the pace of evolution is sometimes slow and sometimes abrupt, as though the approach to beauty is as in Dialectics! Have you thought the evolution of the universe in this way?
RP: I have not thought in this way, but I see your point. I think Darwinism was misread (by the Marxists). Refined Darwinism does include abrupt changes also. In my view, the universe does undergo constant evolution and changes rather abruptly as one aeon ends and the next one starts.
SKC: Dialectic materialism of Marx also asserts that every economic order grows to a state of maximum efficiency, while at the same time developing internal contradictions or weaknesses that contribute to its decay. Can an aeon of yours be described by similar scientific terms?
RP: Can the growth often be backwards as in my aeons where the entropy needs to be consumed by black holes?
SKC: Yes it can go backwards. That is why the term ‘contradiction’ is used.
RP: Well in that case, I agree, there are some similarities. May be these aspects need to be explored, but it is a different subject altogether. This is an intriguing analogy, worthy of study.