Beyond Reason: Eight Great Problems That Reveal the Limits of Science / Edition 1

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $1.99
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 93%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (27) from $1.99   
  • New (10) from $4.03   
  • Used (17) from $1.99   



In the past tow centuries, we have witnessed an unparalleled expansion in scientific and technical horizons. But with our longer view of things, the horizon is now interrupted,, here and there, by walls. With our newfound knowledge and technical abilities has come an understanding of the limitations of science and technology. Beyond Reason provides a mind-bending exploration not into what is doable and knowable-but what is undoable and unknowable.

Temporary barriers to understanding are sometimes swept away by knowledge, each advance revealing new vistas. But some barriers appear to be permanent. Author A.K. Dewdney explores these grand limitations that stand like gr5anite walls around our scientific and technological enterprise. these are not the barriers of ignorance, but knowledge. It is perhaps only ignorance that prevents us from traveling thought time; Certainly no theory yet p5rohibits the possibility. Yet the presence of chaos in our atmospheric system implies rather strongly that we shall never predict the weather much better than we do now.

Beyond Reason explores these barriers and the theories that give them form and substance. We shall apparently never travel faster than the speed of light, nor shall we ever build a perpetual motion machine that performs useful work. After laying the foundations of each theory, illuminated by stories of the scientists who didcovere4d them, A.K. Dewdney then goes on to ask "What if"? Is there a way out? Are there no secret passages through these walls?

Divided into sections that cover inductive and deductive science, Beyond Reason explores the theories and caveats behind:

  • Unknowable Particles. Why the detailed behavior of any quantum system-Whether consisting of electrons, photons, or atomic particles-cannot be described or predicted by any mathematical law.
  • Unpredictable Systems. Why there are some  classical systems (such as the weather or planetary systems) the long-term behavior of which cannot be predicted by any computer.
  • Unprovable Theorems. Which theorems 9 true mathematical statements) will never be proven? Gödel's theorem says they exist.
  • Impossible Programs. How it is that some problems with simple yes/no answers will never be answered by a computer, no matter how it is programmed.
  • Intractable Problems. Why will some problems, even when they can be solved by a computer, nevertheless take forever to solve? Cook's theorem points the way.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“…appropriate for general readership…should prove as popular as his other books…” (Short Book Reviews, Vol.24, No.3, December 2004)

“…an intelligent book with considerable enthusiasm…” (Materials World, Vol.13, No.1)

" of the most rewarding science reads I have had the pleasure of in a long time....”(Chemistry & Industry, 17 January 2005)

“…fascinating…keeps firmly to the areas of science where the impossibility is demonstrable.” (Fortean Times, No 189, November 2004)

“…looks closely at eight great problems that reveal the limits of science…” (Materials World, September 2004)

Dewdney (A Mathematical Mystery Tour), best known for the Scientific American column “Computer Recreations,” which he wrote for eight years, sets an impressive goal for himself: “to discover how physical reality depends on mathematical reality, and to examine how mathematical reality manifests itself.” He attempts to do this by outlining four problems in the physical realm and four in the mathematical realm that he believes can never be solved. The topics he discusses are largely of great interest to science and math buffs: perpetual motion, the speed of light, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, chaos theory, squaring the circle, unprovable but true mathematical theorems, “simple” problems that no computer program can solve, and the fact that some mathematical problems would require an infinite amount of computer time to solve. In his chapter on chaos theory, for example, Dewdney does a very nice job of explaining why we will never be able to predict the weather accurately more than four days in advance. The problem throughout the book, however, is that he alternates between colorful prose or explanations of basic terms (such as “primary number”) and relatively dense mathematics (transcendental and transfinite numbers), never settling on who the appropriate audience for this study might be. B&w illus. Agent, Linda McKnight. (May) (Publishers Weekly, April 5th, 2004)

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471013983
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/23/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,169,841
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

A.K. DEWDNEY, PH.D., is the author of several critically acclaimed math and science books, including A  Mathematical Mystery Tour; Yes, We have No Neutrons; and 200% of Nothing, all from Wiley. He was a member of the computer science  department at the university of Western Ontario and at the university of Waterloo for a combined period of thirty years before retiring. In 1996, he became an adjunct professor of biology at UWO. For eight years, Dewdney was the  computer Recreations columnist  for Scientific American magazine.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction: Where Reason Cannot Go.

Math in the Cosmos.

1. The Energy Drain: Impossible Machines.

2. The Cosmic Limit: Unreachable Speeds.

3. The Quantum Curtain: Unknowable Particles.

4. The Edge of Chaos: Unpredictable Systems.

Math in the Holos.

5. The Circular Crypt: Unconstructable Figures.

6. The Chains of Reason: Unprovable Theorems.

7. The Computer Treadmill: Impossible Programs.

8. The Big-O Bottleneck: Intractable Problems.


Further Reading.


Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)