Will we ever discover a scientific theory that tells us everything that has happened, and everything that will happen, on every level in the Universe? What might such a theory look like, and what would it mean? John D. Barrow guides us through the latest theories, predictions and controversies surrounding the ultimate explanation.
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.