Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on Science, Art, and Philosophy

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9780198502548: Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on Science, Art, and Philosophy

The origins of life on earth, the workings of the human mind, the mysteries of the Universe itself--profound questions such as these were once the province of philosophy and theology alone. Today they have become the staple--and indeed the hallmark--of the finest writing about science. And few science writers have tackled the big questions as persistently and as insightfully as astronomer John Barrow.
Now, in Between Inner Space and Outer Space, Barrow brings together dozens of essays that offer a sweeping account of his explorations along the boundary lines of science, philosophy, and religion. Here is an invigorating tour of topics such as cosmology, evolution, Grand Unified Theories, complexity and chaos, the nature of time, super string theory, quantum mechanics, particle physics, Big Bang theory, and much more. Barrow's range is remarkable. He examines, for instance, what science can tell us about our love of music or why certain paintings appeal to us. He recounts the dramatic discoveries made by the satellite COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) and reveals what these findings tell us about the origins of the Cosmos. He discusses the debate over the nature of the universe waged by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. And he offers a thoughtful review of E.O. Wilson's Consilience, seconding Wilson's criticism of social scientists who remain quite ignorant of the key insights made by the life sciences.
Leavened with a sprightly sense of humor, Between Inner Space and Outer Space illuminates modern science as it provides much food for thought about life's ultimate questions.

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Review:

The publication over a decade ago of Stephen Hawking's runaway bestseller A Brief History of Time triggered a flood of more or less comprehensible books about the frontiers of physics and mathematics. And to judge by most of their authors, we are on the brink of finding the theory of everything, or the key to the cosmos, or some other Holy Grail of science.

Rarer are authors such as John Barrow, professor of physics at Sussex University, a genuine expert in these fields who writes coolly and clearly about the current state of play. Between Inner Space and Outer Space is a collection of Barrow's writings about the frontiers of science dating back to 1980, and is remarkable for the number of fresh twists and insights it brings to many now-familiar debates. For example, are scientists really close to a theory of everything, uniting all the fundamental forces in the universe and all the particles on which they act? Barrow shows how the quest may be stymied by fundamental limits to knowledge that have emerged from 20th-century mathematics. Are scientists really close to understanding the birth of the universe? Again, Barrow shows that a whole set of limitations--not the least of which is the fact that light travels at a finite speed--forever stops us from knowing for sure if our ideas are right. As in any collection, there is a modicum of repetition and a few ill-judged selections. Even so, any reader seeking thoughtful, sophisticated, and above all original writing about the cutting edge of physics and mathematics need look no further. --Robert Matthews, Amazon.co.uk

About the Author:


John D. Barrow is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Among his many popular books on science are Impossibility, Pi in the Sky, Theories of Everything, and The Origin of the Universe. He lives in Sussex, England.

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John D. Barrow
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ISBN 10: 0198502540 ISBN 13: 9780198502548
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