Impossibility : The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits

3.97 avg rating
( 248 ratings by Goodreads )
 
9780198518907: Impossibility : The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits

John Barrow is increasingly recognized as one of our most elegant and accomplished science writers, a brilliant commentator on cosmology, mathematics, and modern physics. Barrow now tackles the heady topic of impossibility, in perhaps his strongest book yet.
Writing with grace and insight, Barrow argues convincingly that there are limits to human discovery, that there are things that are ultimately unknowable, undoable, or unreachable. He first examines the limits on scientific inquiry imposed by the deficiencies of the human mind: our brain evolved to meet the demands of our immediate environment, Barrow notes, and much that lies outside this small circle may also lie outside our understanding. Barrow 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 the deeper theoretical restrictions on our ability to know, including Godel's theorem--which proved that there were things that could not be proved--and Arrow's Impossibility theorem about democratic voting systems. Finally, having explored the limits imposed on us from without, Barrow considers whether there are limits we should impose upon ourselves. For instance, if the secrets of the atom are to be found only by recreating extreme environments at great financial cost, just how much should we devote to that quest?
Weaving together this intriguing tapestry, he illuminates some of the most profound questions of science, from the possibility of time travel to the very structure of the universe.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

Review:

Perhaps it's a harbinger of the end of science that so much attention is being paid to the impossible. In Impossibility, astronomer John D. Barrow outlines a maturation pattern for areas of deep human inquiry that includes an adolescence of exciting discoveries, new formulas, and unusual predictions. As science has matured, our confidence in it has grown. We expect that science has answers, that its predictive powers are mostly accurate. But what happens when the science gets old? Oddly enough, it seems to have started trying to find the end of its own usefulness--its formulas "predict that there are things which they cannot predict, observations which cannot be made, statements whose truth they can neither affirm nor deny."

Barrow's book is a fairly tough read, delving into topics as varied as theology, art, mathematics, and cosmology in its quest to define impossibility. But for those who have noticed that, "Scientists seem no longer content merely to describe what they have done or what Nature is like; they are keen to tell their audience what their discoveries mean for an ever-widening range of deep philosophical questions," Impossibility is an intriguing look at the evolution of our thoughts on knowing everything. Without limits, there would be no science, and though our imaginations may roam freely through the realms of impossibility, we may find in the end that "what cannot be known is more revealing than what can." --Therese Littleton

About the Author:


John Barrow is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Among his many popular books on science are Pi in the Sky, Theories of Everything, and The Origin of the Universe. He lives in Sussex, England

"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.

Top Search Results from the AbeBooks Marketplace

1.

Barrow, John D.
Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
RON RAMSWICK BOOKS, IOBA
(CARLSBAD, CA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. A mind-expanding tour of the twilight zone where no man can go. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 19588

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 7.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

2.

Barrow, John D.
Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
RON RAMSWICK BOOKS, IOBA
(CARLSBAD, CA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. A mind-expanding tour of the twilight zone where no man can go. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 19589

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 7.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

3.

Barrow, John D.
Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
RON RAMSWICK BOOKS, IOBA
(CARLSBAD, CA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. A mind-expanding tour of the twilight zone where no man can go. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 23385

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 7.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

4.

Barrow, John D.
Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
RON RAMSWICK BOOKS, IOBA
(CARLSBAD, CA, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. A mind-expanding tour of the twilight zone where no man can go. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 23386

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 7.95
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.50
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

5.

John D. Barrow
Published by Oxford University Press (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover First Edition Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Irish Booksellers
(Rumford, ME, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0198518900

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 20.26
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: FREE
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

6.

John D. Barrow
Published by Oxford University Press, USA (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Ergodebooks
(RICHMOND, TX, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, USA, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0198518900

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 17.73
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 3.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

7.

Barrow, John D.
Published by Oxford University Press (1998)
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 2
Seller:
Murray Media
(North Miami Beach, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press, 1998. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110198518900

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 38.01
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 1.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds

8.

Barrow, John D.
Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 10: 0198518900 ISBN 13: 9780198518907
New Hardcover Quantity Available: 1
Seller:
Cloud 9 Books
(Wellington, FL, U.S.A.)
Rating
[?]

Book Description Oxford University Press. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0198518900 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0045183

More Information About This Seller | Ask Bookseller a Question

Buy New
US$ 59.99
Convert Currency

Add to Basket

Shipping: US$ 4.99
Within U.S.A.
Destination, Rates & Speeds