The Theory Of Everything--What's Knowable And What's Not

Editor's Note: By Julia King How convenient it would be for scientists if there existed a Theory of Everything, some ultimate explanation for all that goes on and doesn't go on in the universe around us. What would constitute such a theory? According to British astronomer and writer John D. Barrow, any comprehensive understanding of the world, and thus a Theory of Everything, would need to incorporate eight essential ingredients, which he explores, chapter by chapter, in a new book. These are:

John Barrow
Dec 9, 1990
Editor's Note: By Julia King

How convenient it would be for scientists if there existed a Theory of Everything, some ultimate explanation for all that goes on and doesn't go on in the universe around us. What would constitute such a theory? According to British astronomer and writer John D. Barrow, any comprehensive understanding of the world, and thus a Theory of Everything, would need to incorporate eight essential ingredients, which he explores, chapter by chapter, in a new book. These are: laws of Nature, initial conditions, the identity of forces and particles, constants of Nature, broken symmetries, organizing principles, selection biases, and categories of thought. But even with these ingredients in place, is a Theory of Everything indeed achievable by scientists? Or, are there other necessary ingredients, which defy observation, much less quantification?

This is the question Barrow explores in the following excerpt from his new book, Theories of...