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New Theories of Everything (Gifford Lectures) 2nd Ed., New Ed Edition

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0192807212
ISBN-10: 0192807218
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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


`A fascinating journey... Barrow gets right down to fundamental issues in addressing this central question in modern science.' Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Gifford Lectures
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 2nd Ed., New Ed edition (July 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192807218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192807212
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,733,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 61 people found the following review helpful By WB, Zeno on November 22, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Alas, no.
Over the years I have read several Barrow books: The Book of Nothing, Impossibility, Pi in the Sky, etc. Maybe even the first edition of this one (I don't have it, and seem to remember it but very hazily, but that might be a consequence of Barrow's writing essentialy one book under several titles, an impression of mine probably deriving from the fact that he tackles metaphisically entangled themes such as infinity, being, the nature of reality, TOEs, etc., which in my view are intimately related).

"New TOEs" is in my opinion a somewhat obscure and defective book, because (1) the first edition hasn't been rewritten but addded to; (2) it's an uneven mixture of dumbing down and illusory depth; and (3) Barrow has, not a golden, but a leaden (or iron, were we to follow Hesiod) pen.

(1) NOT REWRITTEN BUT ADDED TO: in page 3 he writes as if the 20th C had still to end; in his first summary of superstrings ("ss") (p. 24) he doesn't mention M theory, an omission which he makes good in page 32 ff., but without including the landscape problem: this is fleetingly alluded to only once in the whole book (p. 133), as contrasted to the constant references to eternal inflation and bubble Universes; there's constant emphasis on the heat death of the Universe whereas the acceleration of expansion (pp. 130/133, oddly introduced as a "rival Theory of (almost) Everything" to ss in p. 129) is treated only once; an unclear graph extends only to 1988 (p. 170); "if ss theory manages to produce some observable prediction in the not too distant future" (p. 224); etc. etc.

(2) UNEVEN MIXTURE OF DUMBING DOWN AND ILLUSORY DEPTH. I'll give just two examples (they take space), although there are many others: in pp.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on March 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm a big fan of Oxford's John Barrow.

As a scientist he's distinguished himself among weighty competition like Frank Tipler in formulating the cosmic anthropologic hypothesis (which deals with the question of why we find ourselves in a universe so conducive to our own existence).

As a science writer, he's also distinguished himself by taking weighty concepts like how the universe came to be and how far our science may ever be able to get in helping us understand where it and where it's going. His books Impossibility on the Science of Limits and the Limits of Science and the Constants of Nature occupy two of the most treasured spots on my bookshelf.

And in my opinion Barrow doesn't disappoint in either this book or its 1991 original version.

As observed by other reviewers Barrow endeavors to tell what is the continuing story of science's continuing quest to develop a theory of everything: a theory that explains the basic physical laws of the universe.

A fully formed theory of everything would take us back to the very moment of creation and explain the process by which the universe came to be the way that it is.

Along the way, understanding the way that the universe is has turned out to be a major challenge. That's because by dint of our occupancy on a rather mundane planet in a non significant solar system in what is an average galaxy doesn't exactly give us the best vantage point to view things they way they ultimately are.

For one thing, the very matter of which we are composed according to modern physics is but four percent of the existing mass of the universe.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jersey gardener on October 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Barrow's book is densely packed with information and novel insights, but it's a slog to get through. The author is repetitive and not always clear, because he relies a lot on the assumption you've read his earlier works and are quite literate and up-to-speed on philosphical arcania.
Nevertheless, I think you will be rewarded by a careful reading and rereading of this volume. Here Barrow attempts to parse the largest questions about reality and the universe into crisp catagories. In itself this is quite a task and he accomplishes it, though a bit too tersely.
Like Penrose's "The Road to Reality," Barrow's "New Theories of Everything" is, in a way, exhaustive and exhausting.
But not reading it leaves a wide and unnecessary hole in one's understanding about modern physics and its implications for the largest questions about our material existence.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I'm not sure I understand why this book seems to have limited appeal for some reviewers. I've been reading a lot of popular physics books lately, working my way backwards from some of the more recent. Barrow's book is valuably different than most. It seems to belong to an expository tradition rarely seen these days. He creates a large, lucid, and eloquent context of different perspectives on related fundamental issues. He characterizes very well how the convergence of such perspectives can offer insights and intuitions, even while those different ways of looking at things get in each others way or leave crucial questions open.

Part of Barrow's practice in his writing is to respect the reader's own way of assembling ideas, and my response to his approach seems to result in adopting a kind of ventilation system among my own different kinds of thoughts. This I find an intriguing effect, which I believe at least partially qualifies Barrow's writing as philosophical in the modern sense.

I would be remiss if I did not note here that there are also many levels of humor in Barrow's writing, and very entertaining use of quotations at chapter and section headings.
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