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Impossibility The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits

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ISBN-10: 0195130820

ISBN-13: 9780195130829

Edition: N/A

Authors: John D. Barrow

List price: $39.99
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Description:

In Impossibility, John D. Barrow--one of our most elegant and accomplished science writers--argues convincingly that there are limits to human discovery, that there are things that are ultimately unknowable, undoable, or unreachable. Barrow first examines the limits of the human mind: our brain evolved to meet the demands of our immediate environment, and much that lies outside this small circle may also lie outside our understanding. He investigates practical impossibilities, such as those imposed by complexity, uncomputability, or the finiteness of time, space, and resources. Is the universe finite or infinite? Can information be transmitted faster than the speed of light? The book also examines deeper theoretical restrictions on our ability to know, including Godel's theorem, which proved that there were things that could not be proved. Finally, having explored the limits imposed on us from without, Barrow considers whether there are limits we should impose upon ourselves. Weaving together this intriguing tapestry, Barrow illuminates some of the most profound questions of science, from the possibility of time travel to the very structure of the universe.
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Book details

List price: $39.99
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/28/1999
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 304
Size: 5.50" wide x 8.00" long x 0.75" tall
Weight: 0.242
Language: English

John D. Barrow is a scientist who writes accessibly about astrophysics and cosmology for both the general reader and the expert. Born in 1952, in London, England, Barrow earned a B.S. degree with first-class honors from the University of Durham in 1974. Three years later he received his doctorate from Magdalen College, Oxford. He was a junior research lecturer in astrophysics at Oxford University from 1977 to 1980 and became a lecturer in astronomy at the University of Sussex in Brighton in 1981. With coauthor Joseph Silk, Barrow published The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe in 1983. The book, which explains particle physics and its application to the creation and evolution of the universe, quickly won praise for its lucid style. Barrow delved further into this topic in 1994 with The Origin of the Universe. In this work he explored such questions as the possibility of extra dimensions to space, the beginning of time, and how human existence is part and parcel of the origin and composition of the universe. Barrow's other books include Pi and the Sky; Theories of Everything; and The World Within the World. He has also contributed many articles to such professional journals as New Scientist, Scientific American, and Nature.

The art of the impossible
The power of negative thinking
Of faces and games
Those for whom all things are possible
Paradox
Visual paradox
Linguistic paradox
Limits to certainty
A cosmic speed limit
Summary
The hope of progress
Over the rainbow
The voyage to Polynesia via Telegraph Avenue
Progress and prejudice
The big idea of unlimited knowledge
Negativism
Some nineteenth-century ideas of the impossible
Summary
Back to the future
What do we mean by the limits of science?
Possible futures
Higgledy-piggledyology
Selective and absolute limits
Will we be builders or surgeons?
The futures market
How many discoveries are there still to be made?
Summary
Being human
What are minds for?
Counting on words
Modern art and the death of a culture
Complexity matching: climbing Mount Improbable
Intractability
The frontier spirit
The end of diversity
Does science always bring about its own demise?
Death and the death of science
The psychology of limits
Summary
Technological limits
Is the Universe economically viable?
Why we are where we are
Some consequences of size
The forces of Nature
Manipulating the Universe
Criticality: the riddle of the sands
Demons: counting the cost
Two types of future
Is technological progress inevitable (or always desirable)?--a fable
Summary
Cosmological limits
The last horizon
Inflation--still crazy after all these years
Chaotic inflation
Is the Universe open or closed?
Eternal inflation
The natural selection of universes
Topology
Did the Universe have a beginning?
Naked singularities: the final frontier
Dimensions
Symmetry-breaking
Summary
Deep limits
Patterns in reality
Paradoxes
Consistency
Time travel: is the Universe safe for historians?
Completeness
Impossible constructions
Metaphorical impossibilities
Summary
Impossibility and us
Godel's theorem and physics
Does Godel stymie physics?
Godel, logic, and the human mind
The problem of free will
The reaction game
Mathematics that comes alive
A stranger sort of impossibility
The Arrow Impossibility Theorem
Summary
Impossibility: taking stock
Telling what is from what isn't
Notes
Index