Reviews elsewhere on the web:
Richard Lubbock
physicsweb
Simon McLeish

John Barrow

Impossibility

Technology progresses at such speed that one sometime wonders whether there are any limits to what can be achieved. On the other hand science is built on laws which restrict our ability to do things - we can't travel faster than light or produce energy out of nothing. In Impossibility John Barrow looks such limits, and asks what consequences they will have in future. The book is actually much more positive than the title suggests, and the only things which seem to be really impossible are those which have been mathematically proved to be so. In truth the book is a wide ranging speculation of the possible directions our technology might follow. If you like this sort of peek into the future then this is a book you should read.

I had expected this book to be essentially a collection of separate chapters, each one dealing with a different kind of impossibility. In fact the chapters form more of a continuing discussion of what may become possibile in the future. In a sense the book is an answer to John Horgan's The End of Science. Some people might think that Barrow tries to cover too wide an area in this book and skims over the details too much - but he does provide plenty of notes at the end for those wanting to look further into the material covered.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 304 pages  
ISBN: 0195130820
Salesrank: 1938251
Weight:1 lbs
Published: 1999 Oxford University Press
Amazon price $33.99
Marketplace:New from $25.98:Used from $3.89
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 291 pages  
ISBN: 0198518900
Salesrank: 1580408
Weight:0.95 lbs
Published: 1998 Oxford University Press
Marketplace:New from £25.53:Used from £0.01
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Amazon.ca info
Paperback
ISBN: 0195130820
Salesrank: 3362202
Weight:1 lbs
Published: 1999 Oxford University Press, USA
Marketplace:New from CDN$ 58.41:Used from CDN$ 11.31
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Product Description
In Impossibility, John D. Barrow--one of our most elegant and accomplished science writers--argues convincingly that there are limits to human discovery, that there are things that are ultimately unknowable, undoable, or unreachable. Barrow first examines the limits of the human mind: our brain evolved to meet the demands of our immediate environment, and much that lies outside this small circle may also lie outside our understanding. He investigates practical impossibilities, such as those imposed by complexity, uncomputability, or the finiteness of time, space, and resources. Is the universe finite or infinite? Can information be transmitted faster than the speed of light? The book also examines deeper theoretical restrictions on our ability to know, including Godel's theorem, which proved that there were things that could not be proved. Finally, having explored the limits imposed on us from without, Barrow considers whether there are limits we should impose upon ourselves. Weaving together this intriguing tapestry, Barrow illuminates some of the most profound questions of science, from the possibility of time travel to the very structure of the universe.