What We Cannot Know
Britain’s most famous mathematician takes us to the edge of knowledge to show us what we cannot know.
Is the universe infinite?
Do we know what happened before the Big Bang?
Where is human consciousness located in the brain?
And are there more undiscovered particles out there, beyond the Higgs boson?
In the modern world, science is king: weekly headlines proclaim the latest sci...more
I was educated in the school of anti-reductionism. That is, I was taught that knowledge of how the fundamental particles of the universe work would not help me understand what I might choose for dinner. I did take university courses in physics and chemistry, but the deterministic implications of science, those which suggested the fictional character of things like purpose and choice and free will, were never allowed to surface fully. It turns out that my views may si ...more
The book begins with a discussion of throwing a 6-sided die. With perfect knowledge of the position, velocity, and rotation of ...more
The author is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, and he is highly renown for his excellent, contagious, enthusiastic divulgation to the wider public of the beauty of the mathematical world.
His exploration of the boundaries of human knowledge is multi-faceted, encompassing a variety of disparate disciplines such as quantum physics, cosmology and relativity, probability, ...more
Non mi preoccupo più di tanto, e invoco a mia parziale discolpa quanto segue:
Devo ammettere che la natura controintuitiva del mondo quantis ...more
He uses that ‘weapon’ of mathematics to look at the sciences, starting from the question of whether there is anything that we will ...more
In words of the author : "What I want to try to explore is wether there are problems that we can prove will remain beyond knowledge despite any new insights".
In the knowledge subject are famous the words of Donal Rumsfeld :
There are known knowns.
There are known unknowns.
There are unknown unknowns.
The author first explore what is known and then especulate about the unknowns.
The book is divided in seven edges of known and unknown.
The scope of this book brings together the current thinking in many disciplines from physics, philosophy, mathematics, cosmology, neurobiology etc, in a structured, well researched and authoritative narrative which seeks to explain the boundaries of human knowledge.
The section o ...more
This is a very important book. Uniting the disciplines within science and seeing all the sciences as a coherent formation against the boundaries of knowledge is an important viewpoint missing from much of popular literature. Chemistry flows seamlessly into physics, scientists and mathematicians collaborate, and big data and math ...more
Rather than simply a dry explanation of concepts of infinity and Godel's theorems, it reads more like a journey for the author itself. So much information and concepts are packed into such a small package that will simultaneously satisfy you while leaving yearning to learn more on your own.
Take one. There is a Paul Whitehouse character in the Fast Show, called "Brilliant Kid" who wanders round a variety of landscapes exclaiming "Everything is brilliant". Reading this book made me want to do the same thing.
Take two. There is a strand of speculative fiction, of which China Mieville is a leading proponent, referred to as the "New Weird". This book suggests that they haven't even got close to emulating the actual wei ...more
I found the last 2 Edges - quite 'loose' and couldn't really grasp the intuitions shared about some of the ideas. I lost sight of where the author was trying to show me at times in these last 2 edges.
The mathematical viewpoint shared in this book about some of these ideas, made all the difference!
All in all an awesome read. The edges containing intuitions and history of quantum and classical physics I found super invaluable. I found that taki ...more
I've always read bits and pieces on the 'Big' questions - the origin and the future of the universe, the nature of the universe(s), the riddles of quantum physics and ...more
Traversing science, philosophy, theology and mathematics, Marcus Du Sautoy's writing is compelling and thought provoking. There's much food for thought here.
--Tristan Sherwin, Author of *Love: Expressed*
"Polkinghorne is careful to assert that you allow shifts between systems where there is change only in information, not energy." So, miracles can happen not through God's direct intervention of changing cosmological laws but through the energy forms which I believe is through the events that can happen in one's day ...more