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The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless
     

The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless

by John Barrow
 

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A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless.

Everything you might want to know about infinity — in history, and all the way to today’s cutting-edge science.
Throughout history, the Infinite has been a dangerous idea. Men have lost their lives, their careers, or their freedom for talking about it. Where did the idea come from, and what is

Overview

A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless.

Everything you might want to know about infinity — in history, and all the way to today’s cutting-edge science.
Throughout history, the Infinite has been a dangerous idea. Men have lost their lives, their careers, or their freedom for talking about it. Where did the idea come from, and what is it telling us about the universe? Can there actually be infinities, or is infinity just a label for something that is never reached? Can you do an infinite number of things in a finite amount of time? Is the universe infinite? Will it exist forever?

All manner of paradoxes and fantasies characterize an infinite universe. If our universe is infinite, then an infinite number of exact copies of you are at this very moment reading an identical sentence on an identical planet somewhere else in the universe. So what is it like to live in a universe where nothing is original, where you can live forever, where anything that can be done, is done, over and over again?

These are some of the deep questions that the idea of the infinite pushes us to ask. The Infinite Book will explore these provocative questions and the strange answers that scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and theologians have come up with to deal with its threats to our sanity.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Barrow explains “nothing” with great clarity, a lovely lightness of touch and enormous erudition. He has written an eligible bachelor of a book — witty, suave, rich and immensely learned.”
–Spectator
For thousands of years, thinkers have been fretting over the idea of infinity. This seemingly inconceivable concept has confounded philosophers, bedeviled theologians, and driven physicists, cosmologists, and mathematicians to the end of distraction and beyond. In The Infinite Book, Cambridge mathematics professor John D. Barrow proposes to present the multivarious permutations of the infinite for the enjoyment of even lay readers.
Library Journal
Barrow, a mathematician and prolific popular science author (e.g., The Anthropic Cosmological Principle), here surveys the intriguing topic of infinity. He approaches the subject from the viewpoints of mathematics, physics, and scientific cosmology and also delves into philosophers' and theologians' reflections concerning infinity. Georg Cantor, the remarkable 19th-century mathematician who was persecuted for his development of infinity as an ultimately respectable mathematical subject, receives special attention. Aside from Cantor's tragedy, Barrow's book is basically a lighthearted romp, particularly in the final chapter, "Living Forever." The text is sprinkled with numerous pertinent (and often amusing) quotes from a variety of authors. Well suited to a general audience, this book requires no specialized knowledge of mathematics or science; recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Jack W. Weigel, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Define the universe, and give two examples. If that kind of challenge makes your head hurt, then science explainer and Cambridge mathematician Barrow's latest excursus into the unusual (The Constants of Nature, 2003, etc.) will send pain receptors into overdrive. Infinity is a hard enough notion to grasp, the kind of thing that set many a smoky dorm room into far-out reveries back in the day. But what if there are multiple infinities? What if there are many different series of things that have no end, mathematically and logically? What if, as the Indian mathematician once said, below the seemingly endless chain of turtles that held the world up in the sky there were simply more turtles? That's the kind of talk, Barrow writes, that once "made mathematicians very nervous about infinities. It is easy to see why infinity was regarded as a form of logical plague that destroyed the reliability of everything it touched." Yes, it is, for infinity is a great underminer of certainty. Barrow has more questions for us to entertain: "Does the Universe have an ‘edge' or is it simply unbounded in size?" "Is infinity just a shorthand for ‘finite but awfully big'?" Mathematicians, logicians, cosmologists, philosophers and physicists have been preoccupied by such conundrums for a very long time, and some of them, such as the 19th-century German scholar Georg Cantor, became "corrupters of youth" (as one of Cantor's enemies charged) by showing that infinity was not just a potential but a process-and one, incidentally, that might lead to the doorway of God. (God's infinity, Cantor said, was different from mathematical infinity and physical infinity. Let the headaches commence.) Mathematicians now take theidea of infinity/infinities for granted. Barrow is a lucid and sometimes even lyrical explainer, and nonspecialist readers with a liking for the history of science and the progress of human thought will find these pages to be most accessible. Prospective time-travelers, too, will want to brush up on the math toward the back of the book. Another pleasing popularization of science from an old hand.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780099443728
Publisher:
Random House UK
Publication date:
04/28/2006
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.81(h) x 0.87(d)

Meet the Author

John D. Barrow, a distinguished scientist and popular science author, is Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. His best-selling books include Theories of Everything and Impossibility.

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