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on 27 April 2010
As another reviewer has said, this is a slightly revised version of an earlier book, and the updating could have been more comprehensive and thorough. Much of the focus is on the philosophical aspects of theories of everything, and I would have liked to see more attention on the maths and science, parts of which are passed over without enough explanation to satisfy me. In places the book is a little repetitive. Still, there was enough (just) to keep me reading to the end.
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on 30 August 2011
I found this a fascinating book. John Barrow does not propose a "Theory of Everything" (TOE). Instead he deals with all the issues a TOE has to address: Laws, Initial Conditions, Forces and Particles, Constants of Nature and Symmetries. He explores the philosophical issues relating to these matters, including the nature of mathematics and the relationship between mathematics and the natural world. Most important: he makes clear the limitations of a TOE - even when the cosmologists finally discover one, it won't actually explain "everything".

A much better book than Hawking and Mlodinow's "The Grand Design".
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on 2 July 2007
This is a pretty dull reworking of John Barrow's Theories of Everything from about 20 years ago. He hasn't bothered to update it very much, and is mainly interested in the philosophical aspects of what we mean by the laws of nature and so on. All very well in its place, but not the place to look if you want what the title implies, the latest hot news about string theory and membranes.
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on 29 July 2014
When I saw the date of the second edition was 2007, I thought about what had happened in the field of physics since then. As it turns out, it was a pretty irrelevant thought, since the author doesn't seem to have considered this aspect of the topic at all, being more concerned with the underlying philosophical aspects. Nevertheless, those concepts are interesting enough, but I just got the feeling that Barrow might have done a bit more, given how quickly the field is moving.
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on 24 October 2011
Fantastic book, with lots of detail and a good focus on the mathematical basis of physics (which seems to be missing from a lot of popular science books). There's also a lot of philosophical aspects of TOE covered. I found this easier to read than some books (eg Hawking) but perhaps not for those with only a passing interest in TOE.
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VINE VOICEon 18 February 2009
According to John D Barrow the idea of a Theory of Everything is simple. It is to provide "a single all-embracing picture of all the laws of Nature from which the inevitability of all things must follow with unimpeachable logic" knowing that through this theory "we could read the book of Nature in all tenses: we could understand all that was, is and is to come."

Barrow rejects this notion. "There is no formula that can deliver all truth, all harmony, all simplicity. No Theory of Everything can ever provide provide total insight. For, to see through everything, would leave us seeing nothing at all."

In between these opening and closing statements of his book Barrow explores the never ending human search and thirst for absolute knowledge which has been with us since the beginning of the human race (whenever that was and whatever relevant form it took). Whether that search has found expression in religious or scientific terms is irrelevant, the fact remains that there is much we do not know and may probably never know.

The divergence between the philosophical and physical aspects of Theories of Everything is where disputes arise and, notwithstanding attempts to provide a physical theory, the concept remains an essentially philosophical one. Some physicists may regard themselves as prophets of the future but they are essentially observers of the past. The question of whether that knowledge was gained by a priori or empirical observation is deemed more important than might actually be the case.

The book is a heady mixture of science and philosophy encompassing ideas of both the mind of man and the mind of God. Barrow concludes that it is only when we know the latter that we shall understand the former. In understanding science we understand God. Given the modern predilection to separate science from theology it is hardly surprising that followers of both schools may find Barrow's line of thinking unsatisfactory.

Barrow provides an excellent survey of the historical evidence showing how even great physicists of their day were defeated in their attempt to find answers to everything. It still remains a weakness of modern science that many believe they have and they can. The science and the philosophy are broken up with pithy statements from a variety of sources including George Bernard Shaw's suggestion that, "The English are not a very spiritual people. So they invented cricket to give them some idea of eternity".

Humans have intelligence, brain power and verbal skills. Barrow's book presents humanity at its best. Challenging, provocative and intellectually demanding. Well worth the challenge, well worth the money. If there's only four stars it's not because of a lack of effort on Barrow's part but because he probably over-estimates the intellect and intelligence of his readers.
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on 28 December 2016
Received not in very good state
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