New Theories of Everything

New Theories of Everything

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by John D. Barrow
     
 

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Will we ever discover a single scientific theory that tells us everything that has happened, and everything that will happen, on every level in the Universe? The quest for the theory of everything - a single key that unlocks all the secrets of the Universe - is no longer a pipe-dream, but the focus of some of our most exciting research about the structure of the… See more details below

Overview


Will we ever discover a single scientific theory that tells us everything that has happened, and everything that will happen, on every level in the Universe? The quest for the theory of everything - a single key that unlocks all the secrets of the Universe - is no longer a pipe-dream, but the focus of some of our most exciting research about the structure of the cosmos. But what might such a theory look like? What would it mean? And how close are we to getting there?
In New Theories of Everything, John D. Barrow describes the ideas and controversies surrounding the ultimate explanation. Updating his earlier work Theories of Everything with the very latest theories and predictions, he tells of the M-theory of superstrings and multiverses, of speculations about the world as a computer program, and of new ideas of computation and complexity. But this is not solely a book about modern ideas in physics - Barrow also considers and reflects on the philosophical and cultural consequences of those ideas, and their implications for our own existence in the world.
Far from there being a single theory uniquely specifying the constants and forces of nature, the picture today is of a vast landscape of different logically possible laws and constants in many dimensions, of which our own world is but a shadow: a tiny facet of a higher dimensional reality. But this is not to say we should give up in bewilderment: Barrow shows how many rich and illuminating theories and questions arise, and what this may mean for our understanding of our own place in the cosmos.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Can any one theory account for everything in the universe? Barrow (Mathematics/Cambridge; The Infinite Book, 2005, etc.) gets right down to fundamental issues in addressing this central question in modern science. He breaks his subject into eight key areas: laws of Nature, initial conditions, forces and particles, constants, broken symmetries, organizing principles, selection biases and categories of thought. Each of these is given a rigorous examination. For example, in discussing laws of nature, Barrow attempts to look at all possible ways the universe, scientific laws and God might interact, including the possibility that any or all of the three don't exist at all. One key question is whether our math is adequate to describe the deepest level of reality, especially in view of Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem, which holds that every mathematical system entails theorems that cannot be proved. The author suggests that Godel's insight, while true of abstract math, doesn't hold for applied math of the sort used in the sciences. The question of whether or not time and space themselves predate the universe gets a careful look, though not a definitive answer. That, of course, is the problem: There are no definitive answers as yet, only more or less promising approaches to the questions. Among the difficulties is the fact that the universe we can observe is only a fraction of what is believed to exist, and we can't be certain that the observable portion is typical. (Of course, to play the game at all, we need to assume so.) At the end, Barrow concedes that no theory can really account for everything; opinions, emotions and so forth are undeniably realm yet beyond all computation. Yet thisphilosophic recognition is not a denial of the scientific enterprise, but a recognition that the universe, at bottom, is subtler than our tools for analyzing it. A fascinating journey.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199548170
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/12/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
7.60(w) x 5.00(h) x 0.80(d)

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