Impossibility : The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits

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Oxford University Press, UK, Mar 12, 1998 - Fiction - 292 pages
Are there some things we can never think, or know, let alone do? In this fascinating book, acclaimed author John Barrow reveals the often paradoxical limits on knowledge and achievement, and shows that the notion of `impossibility' has played, and continues to play, a striking role in our thinking, and in the way in which we understand the universe and ourselves. - ;What are the true limits of science and human endeavour? The end of each century leads to a stocktaking of human achievement and our expectation about the future. This new book by John D. Barrow looks at what limits there might be to human discovery and what we might find, ultimately, to be unknowable, undoable, or unthinkable. Weaving together a tapestry of surprises, Barrow explores the frontiers of knowledge, taking in surrealism, impossible figures, time travel, paradoxes of logic and perspective, theological speculations about Beings for whom nothing is impossible -- all stimulate us to contemplate something more that what is. With sufficient time and money at our disposal, why should we find anything impossible? Barrow explores the limits that may be imposed upon a full understanding of the physical Universe by constraints of technology, computes, cost, and complexity. He considers how the nature of the universe's structure prevents us from answering the deepest questions about its beginning, its structure, and its future. And he delves into the deep limits imposed by the nature of knowledge itself, which have profound implications for any quest for complete knowledge. They take us into the debates over the problems of free will and consciousness. G--ouml--;del's famous theorem about our inability to capture the truths of mathematics by rules and axioms is explored to see if it has any implications for science. Clearly and engagingly written, and using simple explanations, this book reveals that impossibility is a deep and powerful notion: that any Universe complex enough to contain conscious beings will contain limits on what those beings can know about their Universe: that what we cannot know defines reality as surely as what we can know. Impossibility is a two-edged sword: it threatens the completeness of the scientific enterprise yet without it there would be no laws of Nature, no science, and no scientists. - ;In this illuminating, well-written account of Limits (with capital L), John D. Barrow chronicles and explains the limits of science as a reality-generation mechanism and why it matters.So for about as good an account as you're going to get of where science stops, read this book. It won't tell you any final answer. But the journey is far more interesting - and important - than the destination. - Nature


The art of the impossible
Linguistic paradox
Progress and prejudice
Selective and absolute limits
How many discoveries are there still to be made?
Counting on words
The frontier spirit
Chaotic inflation
the final frontier
Impossible constructions
Gödel logic and the human mind

Why we are where we are
the riddle of the sands

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About the author (1998)

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.

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