Why Sir Roger Penrose’s Nobel Prize in Physics Comes as a Surprise

Green College Staff

Bruno Arderucio, Green College Resident Member and UBC PhD in Theoretical Physics, explains the interest—and oddity—of the award

Bruno Arderucio

Bruno Arderucio has talked with Sir Roger Penrose on the latter’s visits to UBC and Green College in recent years. As he explains below, the timing of the British scientist's Nobel laureateship has a significance beyond black holes.

The announcement of this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics came as a surprise. Two astrophysicists, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, shared half of the prize “for the discovery of a supermassive compact object at the centre of our galaxy”. The other half, the real surprise: it belonged to Sir Roger Penrose. The award does not say as much about his accomplishments as it does about the Nobel Prize itself.

Penrose is a phenomenal mathematical physicist, a unique thinker in every topic he gets involved in. His powerful visual mind has led him to leave his fingerprints in practically all the areas he has worked. These fingerprints range from developments in notation and invention of ingenious diagrams to shaping the full theoretical framework used to understand the phenomena. Elaborating a new notation in mathematics is far more than creating new symbols; it is using representations to aid our brains to think, in a similar way we use our language as an aid to form concepts and operate them. Not only do diagrams help with visualisation of certain properties but also invite the formulation of questions and provide tools for addressing them. Notation and diagrams are both the effect and the cause of Penrose's distinctive geometrical mind: they come as the product of his recreation of established theories and propel the continuation of his thoughts. For example, he might find it easier to discover an identity in tensor algebra using the Penrose graphical notation but may prefer to communicate a proof for it using the Penrose abstract index notation, both of which his creation.

But the Nobel Prize was not awarded for notation or diagrams but rather for the beginning of a revolution in black hole physics that his fellow Nobel laureate Kip Thorne refers to as the “golden age of black holes”. This terminology is fair. One year after Einstein published the basic equations of general relativity, Karl Schwarzschild, while serving Germany in the First World War, found their first exact solution. Black holes were already present in Schwarzschild's special solution, but it would take almost half a century before we could get a better grasp of what they were. One of the confusions that were only settled down in the golden age was whether the mysterious “singularities” were physical. Singularities are points in which Einstein’s theory of gravity becomes inapplicable. A highly idealised model for a star collapsing due to its own gravity into a black hole had predicted a singularity in its centre. Some reacted by hypothesising that such singularity would be a feature of the simplifications of the model itself (as perfect spherical symmetry and absence of pressure). It could go away if a more realistic model of the star were used. This hypothesis was enormously frustrating. The task of solving Einstein’s equations is quite a formidable one; there was not much hope in accurately describing a more realistic collapse, not even with the help of computers.

Penrose, however, had a different approach. He mastered an area of mathematics known as differential topology, which was alien to most physicists (even relativists) at the time. Penrose conceptualised “trapped surfaces”, generic geometrical objects expected to be present in black holes and used them to prove the first singularity theorem. After formulating a new characterisation of singularities, he discovered that they were imperative in a classical theory of gravity under very general circumstances. Penrose’s theorem bypassed the need for solving horribly complicated equations and making simplifying assumptions and achieved an understanding of black hole singularities deeper than most could ever imagine.

Roger Penrose 9686
Sir Roger Penrose

This theorem is the reason he was awarded the Nobel Prize this year. The official quote is a rather unfortunate one, “for the discovery that black hole formation is a robust prediction of the general theory of relativity” since he showed that singularities are a robust prediction, not properly black hole formation. Hawking later adapted his methods to prove that the cosmological singularity (at the Big Bang) is also robust. Global methods had their value recognised by the relativity community, leading to the golden age starting in the mid-1960s.

It is as impressive as it sounds, then why the surprise? Well, Nobel Prizes were not traditionally awarded for theoretical physics unless the research is later directly confirmed by experiments. A famous example is Higgs, who waited for more than fifty years for the detection of the boson carrying his name, but many theorists do not have the same luck. Sometimes theory goes too far ahead of the experiment and the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded posthumously. Even worse, other physicists have found groundbreaking discoveries based on extant, firmly-established theories that cannot be experimentally tested in the predictable future but are solid enough to be trusted in the sense that their results follow as logical necessities of previously tested hypotheses. A notorious example is Stephen Hawking's discovery that black holes emit thermal radiation of quantum mechanical origin. Hawking passed away in 2018 and never received a Nobel Prize. This year, the Nobel committee broke this tradition and thereby signalled that they no longer use this criterion as strictly. Roger Penrose is a Nobel Laureate for work in mathematical physics! While it is true that another mathematical physicist, Eugene Wigner, had already been honoured with the prize in 1963, Penrose’s case is unprecedented in how the strengths of his arguments did not rely on a direct observation for their soundness, other than, of course, existing empirical tests of the subjacent theories. The Nobel Prize had already shown some flexibility with their criteria in 2019 when James Peebles received half of that year’s Prize for theoretical research in cosmology while the second half was divided between two astronomers for unrelated reasons. But this year's move is more remarkable and more meaningful. It is heartwarming to know that the Nobel committee is starting to update some of their traditions that were never revised at the same speed as changes in the process of science making unfolded, especially the higher demands for specialisation in certain areas (as Penrose’s) and sizeable collaborations in others. One cannot expect that a prize designed for recognising scientists to remain static for over a century, and 2020 sets an important milestone in what we hope to be a continuous revision process. Congratulations, Sir Roger Penrose! And, above all, congratulations Nobel Prize for this bold and wise choice!

Penrose Tiling (P1 over P3)
Penrose Tiling


Temporal implosion (Implosive time) could be consider as another Second temporal dimension, leading to the hypothesis of Two dimensional time - one Explosive dimension , traditionally regarding as linear Consecutive time flow, "X" ,which is hypo-lucid dimension, and behaving as diverging dissipative temporal waves, causing Entropy, and another Second time dimension, regarding as Perpendicular Simultaneous Instantaneous dimension, causing different time flow orthogonally as "Y", moving instantaneously along with Hyper-lucid velocity, and behaving as converging temporal waves, gathering all tensions and tensors, causing Anti-Entropy time flow. This second time dimension, being instantaneous, cause another time flow, which, making time Curvature, and warping time, simultaneously gather all times Past, Presents and Futures in one undistinguishable Hyper-Present, that already exhibits a Logics, different than those of logics of Succession, and this is a logic of Simultaneity ; That Logic of Simultaneity allows spontaneously derived all Quantum effects of quantum physics, that unusual characteristic already century confused physicists., due to only its different temporal waves, bombing as Temporal Perpendicular Instantaneous Beams traditional linear consecutive time flow. For that hypothesis of Second Perpendicular time Dimension we were inspired by Penrose's creative mind and his unique way of interpretations of mathematical constructions of Weil's Curvatures. See our picture and scheme of "Perpendicular Instantaneous Simultaneous time Dimension". The above considerations allows us to launch the another hypothesis of " Descending Time Energy, and ascending Energy Time ", and as its implications offering a new equation ,showing another continuation of famous Einstein's equivalent of Mass-Energy ,where Energy is already equivalent to Time., which equation already requires Energy to move with hyper-lucid velocity( v >c), This new Equation is "Energy .(V>C) = Time ". When Particles lost their mass they become massless , but still energetic like Photons. But when particles are loosing not only mass but also they loosing their Energy - than the particles ends to be energetic waves and become already Temporal waves , which are moving along with" V>C" velocity. ( See web site " Sign Quantum Continuum" )

Temporal Implosion is another implications of Penrose's mind . The hypothesis of temporal Implosion allows us to distinguish another picture of Time Comprehension , a Two dimensional time,; where a Linear Consecutive time dimension known as dimension "X",which is Hypo-lucid ,running with( V < C )velocity, through which Temporal waves are moving by succession and form our habits to sleepery on the surface of time, between the instants , without be able to get into the very Instants ,found the profundity and deepness of time; And a Second another perfectly different time dimension, which is "Hyper-lucid (V>C), and being running Orthogonally Perpendicularly to the traditional time of succession, bombing constantly each time by Perpendicular Temporal Beams our habitual time flow, penetrating consecutive time flow on the surface and seems to us falsely as deaspearing temporal waves, actually continues each time as new Instants as Infinitely long corridor ,one beginning ( as inflaming a World Nothigness by new Individual as new Instants.each time exploding again never ending towards infinity ). That Second dimension, due to its very nature to Implosive time within, instead to diverge and dissipate Temporal Waves , causing Entropy, on the contrary, all time gather and converge all the tensions, perturbations and tensors, form perfectl different landscape of time flow, turning the flow of time from diverging anf dissipating towards converging, reaching the moment when all the times Past ,Presents and Futures, will gather in one Undistinguishable eternal Hyper-Present., forming the essence of Implosive Time . . This new time dimension, being converging temporal waves, exibits already perfectly different Logics - a Logics of Simultaneity, which is causing all the features of Quantum Physics to derive spontaneously on the its virtue of Simultaneity. For our hypothesis of Two dimensional time we were inspired by creative mind of Roger Penrose and by his unique way he interpretates the two mathematical constructions of Weil's Curvatures : In singularity situated in the Past (Big Bang ) Infinite small Weil curvature going to "Zero" Weil's curvature = "O"; and in Singularity situated in the future ( Big Branch and Black Holes )when Weil's curvature could tend towards "Infinity. From above considerations rise our New Hypothesis of "Descending Time Energy and Ascending time Energy." These hypotheses lead to a new relationships between Time and Energy : It turns out that so called traditional Energy is only that part of Primordial Time ,that exits from Informational dimensions and enter the Geometric dimensions .That shifting from Informational dimensions and entering the Geometric dimensions are accompanies with the Descending of Hyper-lucid Velocity of Primordial time of Perpendicular Instantaneous Simultaneous dimension towards Hypo-lucid velocity of secondary Linear Consecutive time dimension "X", running in succession. Exactly this time, is that which is already behaves ( becomes) an energy. We consider as exactly the "pseudo-point" of Vacuum. According to us Vacuum is not excitement aeria of pair mutually creating and annihilating particles and Anti-particles, but above described changing of informational and geometric dimensions. And exactly that shifting from Hyper-lucid Informational time towards Hypo-lucid Geometric time presents in itself ( by its aptum Natum ) descending of Implosive Hyper-lucid time Future to Hypo-lucid Explosive time Present .Thus is already understanding and notorious passing from Ommni-possible Quantum Future towards Monopossible Macroscopic Present of classical time. It turns out that Omnipossible quantum future ,being implosive ,simultaneous and perpendicular, is Instantaneous and bombing by its Instants linear consecutive time present. But Implications from above hypotheses are not yet finished, and they implies already the last astonishing Equation of Equivalent of Mass, Energy and Time, where as continuation of Unending famous Einstein Equation of equivalent of Mass and Energy. It turns out that Mass is not only Equivalent of Energy( Multiplying to mass C square. The very nature of Energy is capable to desapeared as Energy and shiftng-ascending to Time, if covers conditions to such ascending transformation.That continuation of Einstein unending Equation requires to follow the conditions : A particles can loosing there mass, but remain energetic particles, like photons are massless but still energetic. The same way if the particles are loosing not only their mass, but also loosing its own energy, they become Bothe massless and energy less Particles, but nevertheless they not deaspeared at all, but shifting to other way of existence: they become from energetic waves they become already Temporal waves, or they ascending to Time . Yet for that purpose they they have to be able to move with Hyper-lucid velocity, This Equation is : Time = Energy ( V>C) . It follows that one can define relationships of Energy anf Time as Fraction "Time "Time /Energy = (V>C)".