The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

May 3, 2005

Illiterate notes on Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality, A Complete Guide 
to the Laws of the Universe -

I've been reading this book slowly - which it demands; it's 1100 pages 
roughly. At this point, I'm almost finished - I want to recommend the book 
absolutely to anyone interested in contemporary pictures of the world. I 
wrote a comment on a science blog to this effect -

"The Road to Reality fascinates me for a number of reasons. It doesn't 
hold back on the mathematics, and gives enough bibliographic materials 
(online and offline) for background information. It also has an odd 
development of opinion; string theory is presented, partly in relation to 
Penrose's critical technical analysis, but also in relation to its "hip" 
content, picked up by the media. This is where Penrose's discussion of 
fashion in physics is critical - a discussion that should be applied to 
any number of fields (philosophy or sociology for two examples - where are 
Sartre and Parsons now?). The reader observes the working physicist 
throughout these sections, ignoring the cant and carefully evaluating 
claims - not only of string theory, for example, but of dim > 4 theories 
in general. There's another important point, I think - too often "popular" 
accounts gloss over the mathematics. For me the result has always been 
distorted notions that all-too-quickly are related to Buddhism, holisms, 
etc. etc. Penrose gives the complexity, if not the details, of the 
mathematics at work. It's an extremely hard read, but I couldn't put the 
book down; for once I felt that I was actually learning something about 
the working of physics _qua_ physics... - "


I want to add that a number of the models presented may also be useful, 
even for a non-mathematician for example, in thinking through the 
analog/digital distinction - which I think is related to the U -> R 
collapse that forms the central portion of the book (i.e. the wave 
equation doewn to a specific eigenvalue vis-a-vis measure- ment). Since 
I'm not a physicist, I'm not sure how this applies specifically to the 
Aristotelian logic of everyday life (i.e. without employing a beam- 
splitter or other sub-atomic particle/photon apparatus), but I have some 

In any case, the work is brilliant. Hint - don't skip the math even if it 
proves almost unreadable (sections were for me); just go back and reread, 
look up the concepts elsewhere. As I mention above, physics without math 
is _always_ distorted; equations, theories, etc. just don't translate that 
easily. What happens is that equations -> metaphor as an explanatory mode; 
then metaphor1 -> metaphor2, etc. - and the "sphere of as-if" expands - as 
if, in other words, physics or at least physical theory or at least theory 
were _being done._ The concepts become a kind of legitimation-apparatus 
(which is what Sokal was after, I think), increasingly removed from faulty 
translation inthe first place. Reading Penrose is sobering in this regard, 
but incredibly illuminating - and as I indicate above, the gift to the 
reader is not only the (mathematical) physics, but also the _workings_ of 
physics and physicists; for example, on p. 952, the value of something 
called the "Barbero-Immirzi parameter" is given - and a footnote tells us 
that the value was found incorrect as the book was going to press. Physics 
is often incredibly generous in this regard; Gerald Feinberg, one of the 
"inventors" of the tachyon concept, once told me he wouldn't be perturbed 
if tachyons were never found (they haven't been as yet). Popper's falsifi- 
cation comes to mind, and Penrose critiques his work as well (pp. 1020- 
1024). Read on...

( URLs/DVDs/CDroms/books/etc. see )

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 12:25:41 -0400
Subject: [public-news-alert] Census Bureau Facts for Features Resend Update --
     Mother's Day: May 8, 2005

CB05-FF.05-2 (updated)                                             May 2,

                          Mother’s Day: May 8, 2005

The first Mother’s Day observance was a church service in 1908 requested by
Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, to honor her deceased mother. Jarvis, at an
early age, had heard her mother express hope that a day to commemorate all
mothers would be established. Her mother had also expressed the sentiment
that there were many days dedicated to men but none to mothers. Two years
after her mother’s death, Jarvis and friends began a letter-writing
campaign to declare a national Mother’s Day observance to honor mothers. In
1914, Congress passed legislation designating the second Sunday in May as
Mother’s Day.

How Many Mothers
82.5 million
Estimated number of mothers of all ages in the United States. (From
unpublished Survey of Income and Program Participation)

Percentage of women in Mississippi, ages 15 to 44, who are mothers. This is
among the highest rates among states. The national average is 56 percent.

Percentage of women 40 to 44 years old who are mothers. In 1976, 90 percent
of women in that age group were mothers.

How Many Children
Only about 10 percent of women today end their childbearing years with four
or more children. That compares with 36 percent in 1976.

Average number of children that women today can expect to have in their
lifetime. <>

Average number of children that women in Utah and Alaska can expect to have
in their lifetime. These two states top the nation in average number of
births per woman. <>

Mothers Remembered
Number of florists nationwide in 2002. The florists’ 119,117 employees will
be especially busy preparing, selling and delivering floral arrangements
for Mother’s Day.

The flowers bought for mom probably were grown in California or Colombia.
Among the
36 surveyed states, California was the leading provider of cut flowers in
2003, accounting for more than two-thirds of the domestic production ($306
million out of $425 million) in those states. Meanwhile, the value of U.S.
imports of cut flowers and fresh flower buds in 2004 from Colombia, the
leading foreign supplier to the United States, was more than $385 million.

More than 152 million
Number of Mother’s Day cards expected to be given this year in the United
States, making Mother’s Day the third-largest card sending occasion.
(Source: Hallmark research)

$5 billion
Revenue of greeting-card publishers nationwide in 2002. The 15,859
employees of the
119 greeting-card publishing companies are especially busy creating
Mother’s Day greeting cards.

New Moms
4.0 million
Number of women who have babies each year. Of this number, about 425,000
are teens ages
15 to 19, and more than 100,000 are age 40 or over.

Average age of women when they give birth for the first time — a record
high. The average age has risen nearly four years since 1970.

Percentage of births that are the mother’s first. Another 32 percent are
the second-born;
17 percent, third; and 11 percent, fourth or more.

Number of births in 2002 attended by physicians, midwives or others that do
not occur in hospitals.

The odds of a woman delivering twins. Her odds of having triplets or other
multiple births was approximately 1-in-540.

The most popular month in which to have a baby, with 359,000 births taking
place that month
in 2002. July, with 358,000, was just a shade behind.

The most popular day of the week in which to have a baby, with an average
of almost
13,000 births taking place on Tuesdays during 2002.

Working Moms
5.4 million
Number of stay-at-home moms in 2003.  Thirty-nine percent of these mothers
were under the
age of 35.

Among mothers with infant children in 2002, the percentage in the labor
force, down from a record 59 percent in 1998. This marks the first
significant decline in this rate since the Census

Bureau began calculating this measure in 1976. In that year, 31 percent of
mothers with infants were in the labor force.

Among college-educated women with infant children, the percentage in the
labor force.

Among mothers between ages 15 and 44 who do not have infants, 72 percent
are in the labor force.

More than 687,000
Number of child day-care centers across the country in 2002. These include
nearly 69,000 centers employing close to 750,000 workers and another
618,000 self-employed persons or other companies without paid employees.
Many mothers turn to these centers to help juggle motherhood and career.

About 2 million
Among more than 10 million preschoolers, the number who are cared for in a
day-care center during the bulk of their mother’s working hours.

Single Moms
10 million
The number of single mothers living with children under 18 years old, up
from 3 million in 1970.

The following is a list of observances typically covered by the Census
Bureau’s Facts for Features series:

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 17)/                       Back to School
    African-American History Month (February)                Labor Day
                                           (Sept. 5)
Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14)                                   Grandparents
                                           Day (Sept. 11)
Women’s History Month (March)                         Hispanic Heritage
Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15)
Irish-American Heritage Month (March)/                      Halloween (Oct.
    St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)                             American
                                           Indian/Alaska Native Heritage
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (May)                    (November)
Older Americans Month (May)                                   Veterans Day
                                     (Nov. 11)
Mother’s Day (May 8)
Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 24)
Father’s Day (June 19)                                The Holiday Season
The Fourth of July (July 4)
Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act (July 26)

Editor’s note: Some of the preceding data were collected in surveys and
are, therefore, subject to sampling error. Questions or comments should be
directed to the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office: telephone: (301)
763-3030; fax: (301) 457-3670; or e-mail: <>.

public-news-alert mailing list

Generated by Mnemosyne 0.12.