Book reviews

My hearing fades away, my eyes grow dim.
The light in my heart grows brighter.
Breaking its confines, my mind roams far.
What words describe what I see?
– Rig Ved VI, 9, 6

Just one review for the moment, of Roger Penrose’s “The Emperor’s New Mind”

When Penrose’s “Emperor” was published, it generated a storm of controversy, mostly within the community of scientists and workers in the areas of computer and Artificial Intelligence (AI). In magazine after magazine which concerned itself with these fields, a number of indignant reviews appeared which strongly defended AI, but which focussed only on the computer related aspects of the book.

Almost everyone ignored the fact that it was primarily a book on Physics, and not a treatise on AI or computers. Arguments to refute the book were not based on physics, and even the reviews in physics magazines could not avoid this distortion. After all, this is what had made it a best-seller. In the process much of the material in the book which is of interest to a physicist was bypassed and glossed over in many reviews.

This review, which appeared in the September 1990 issue of Physics News (a monthly bulletin of the Indian Physics Association), attempts to redress this imbalance.  It has been slightly edited to correct grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and omissions that had slipped through the proofreading stage, and appeared (embarrassingly) in print.