New Theories of Everything (Gifford Lectures)

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9780192807212: New Theories of Everything (Gifford Lectures)

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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About the Author:

John D. Barrow is Professor of Mathematical Sciences and Director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University, Gresham Professor of Astronomy and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He is the author of many highly acclaimed books about modern developments in physics, astronomy, and mathematics, including iThe Left Hand of Creation, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation, Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being, Impossibility: the limits of science and the science of limits, Between Inner Space and Outer Space, The Origin of the Universe, The Universe that Discovered Itself, The Book of Nothing, The Constants of Nature: from alpha to omega/i and, most recently, iThe Artful Universe Expanded/i and iThe Infinite Book: a short guide to the boundless, timeless and endless/i. He is also the author of the award-winning play iInfinities/i.

From Publishers Weekly:

In 1991, mathematician and astronomer Barrow released Theories of Everything, a look at science's search for a single model that explains the mechanics of the entire universe. Even though science is not much closer to attaining its Holy Grail, the intervening 16 years have seen enough developments to warrant a thorough revision. Dubious that one formula can ever "deliver all truth"-or that such a theory would even be desirable-Barrow demonstrates that the quest itself is what's important, providing a framework for probing the deepest questions of science, including the role of mankind in the universe; each of these questions is looked at in turn under broad chapters on "Laws," "Initial conditions," "Constants of nature," "Broken symmetries" and others. Each topic yields surprises; for instance, Barrow executes a startling reversal of Copernicus's fundamental principle, that the Earth is not the center of the universe, by pointing out that the physical laws governing our universe are necessarily bound to the conditions that account "for the living observers within it." Though Barrow succeeds in making the scope and wealth of his knowledge accessible and relevant, his book proves more demanding than other "popular" science titles; fortunately, this one is worth the effort. 25 line illustrations.
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