Roger Penrose’s Impossible Diagrams | More than Nothing: A History of the Vacuum in Theoretical Physics, 1925-1980 (2024)

More than Nothing: A History of the Vacuum in Theoretical Physics, 1925-1980

Aaron Sidney Wright

Published:

2024

Online ISBN:

9780190062835

Print ISBN:

9780190062804

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More than Nothing: A History of the Vacuum in Theoretical Physics, 1925-1980

Aaron Sidney Wright

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Aaron Sidney Wright

Aaron Sidney Wright

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Pages

229–268

  • Published:

    March 2024

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Wright, Aaron Sidney, 'Roger Penrose’s Impossible Diagrams', More than Nothing: A History of the Vacuum in Theoretical Physics, 1925-1980 (New York, 2024; online edn, Oxford Academic, 20 June 2024), https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780190062804.003.0006, accessed 8 July 2024.

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Abstract

Penrose diagrams gave new shape to the universes described by General Relativity, and in turn they shaped the development of the field. Penrose diagrams allowed an entire infinite universe to be depicted on a finite sheet of paper. They shaped physicists’ understanding of black holes and relativistic cosmology. This chapter traces Roger Penrose’s development of his novel from unexpected sources including spacetime diagrams, the psychology of perception, in the art of M.C. Escher, and in recreational mathematics. This chapter argues that the same visual experience was created by Penrose’s early “impossible” figures as in his space-time diagrams. The price of these methods was that they could only describe massless, vacuum, universes. Thus, the power of Penrose’s methods—ubiquitous in analyses of radiation and causality in GR—centered the vacuum in relativists’ practice.

Keywords: Penrose diagrams, spacetime diagrams, black holes, General Relativity, cosmology, psychology of perception, recreational mathematics, art, Roger Penrose

Subject

History of Science and Technology

Collection: Oxford Scholarship Online

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