Barrow, John D. 1952- (John David Barrow)
Barrow, John D. 1952- (John David Barrow)
Born November 29, 1952, in London, England; son of Walter Henry (a factory section manager) and Lois (a homemaker) Barrow; married Elizabeth East (a nurse), September 13, 1975; children: David Lloyd, Roger James, Louise Elizabeth. Education: University of Durham, England, B.Sc. (first class honors), 1974; Magdalen College, Oxford, D. Phil., 1977.
Writer, educator, researcher. Oxford University, Christ Church, Oxford, England, junior research lecturer in astrophysics, 1977-80; University of Sussex, Astronomy Centre, Brighton, England, lecturer in astronomy, 1981-88, senior lecturer, 1988-89, acting director, 1989-90, professor, 1989-99, and director, 1995-99; University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, professor of mathematical sciences, 1999—, vice president, Clare Hall, Cambridge, 2004-07; Gresham Professor of Astronomy (and other Physical Sciences), Gresham College, London, 2003-07; Li Ka Shing Foundation Visiting Scholar (China and Hong Kong), 2006. Participated in L'Homme et le cosmos, a radio interview series broadcast in France. Millennium Mathematics Project, University of Cambridge, director, 1999—.
International Astronomical Association, Royal Astronomical Society (fellow), Victoria Institute (fellow).
Collingwood Prize from University of Durham and London Mathematical Society, 1974, for work in mathematics; Johnson Memorial Prize from Oxford University, 1975, for work in astrophysics; Lindemann fellow at University of California, Berkeley, 1977-78; Wallace Prize from Magdalen College, Oxford, 1979, for work in astrophysics; gravity prizes from Gravity Research Foundation, 1979 and 1981; Miller Fellow at University of California, Berkeley, 1980-81; Nuffield Foundation science fellow, 1986-87; Samuel Locker Award in Astronomy 1989; Royal Society Leverhulme Fellow, 1992-93; PPARC senior fellow, 1994-99; Templeton Award 1995; Kelvin Medal, Royal Glasgow Philosophical Society, 1999; honorary Doctor of Science, University of Hertfordshire, for contributions to Astronomy, 1999; Wellcome Sci-art 2000 Award; Gordon Godfrey Visiting Professor, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, 2000, 2003; Italian Theatre Award, 2000; Premi Ubu Prize for best play, 2002, for Infinities; Gresham Professor of Astronomy, Gresham College, 2003-07; elected Fellow of the Royal Society (London), 2003; Italgas Prize for Promulgation of Science, 2003; Lacchini Prize and Medal of the Unione Astrofili Italiani, 2005; Queen's Anniversary Prize 2006 to Millennium Mathematics Project; Templeton Prize, 2006; Honorary Doctor of Science, University of Szczecin, 2007. The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe was included in the Astronomical Society of the Pacific list of best nontechnical astronomy books for 1983, and was the main selection of the Astronomy Book Club for March, 1984.
(With Joseph Silk) The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1983.
(With Frank Tipler) L'Homme et le cosmos (title means "Man and the Universe"), Editions Imago (Paris, France), 1984.
(With Frank Tipler) The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1985.
The World within the World, Clarendon Press (London, England), 1988, revised edition published as The Universe That Discovered Itself, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Origin of the Universe, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1994.
The Artful Universe, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1995.
Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1998.
Perche il Mondo e Matematico?, Editori Laterza (Rome, Italy), 1998.
Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on Science, Art, and Philosophy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Infinities (play), produced at Teator la Scale, February-March, 2002.
The Constants of Nature: From Alpha to Omega—the Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2002, published as The Constants of Nature: From Alpha to Omega, Jonathan Cape (London, England), 2002.
Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology, and Complexity, Cambridge (New York. NY), 2004.
The Artful Universe Expanded, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2005.
The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless, and Endless, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2005.
New Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor of more than 425 research articles to professional journals and non-technical publications, including New Scientist and Scientific American. The author's books have been translated into twenty-eight languages.
John D. Barrow, a professor of mathematical sciences at Cambridge University, has written extensively on mathematics and its links to the cosmos. He is also widely respected for his research in mathematics and cosmology, awarded the prestigious 2006 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, which carries a prize of 1.4 million dollars. For many years, Barrow was associated with the University of Sussex's Astronomy Centre, during which time he published the first in a number of books aimed at an erudite general audience. His debut book, The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe, coauthored with Joseph Silk, endeavors to provide a nontechnical explanation of particle physics—the study of nature on its smallest scale—and its application to the study of the creation and evolution of the universe. According to Timothy Ferris in the New York Times Book Review, "by and large they succeed." Ferris commended the book for handling concepts important in physics but virtually unknown elsewhere with "clarity, poise, even wit." "The nourishment here is physics, not literature," concluded the critic, "and taken as such, The Left Hand of Creation is a reliable and tough-minded guide to the latest scientific ideas about genesis." Times Higher Education Supplement critic Paul Davies agreed, calling Barrow and coauthor Silk "masters at communicating" their exciting insights about the birth of the universe "without falling prey to superficial sensationalism." In Davies's opinion, the "reader who demands a mind-stretching survey of the creation of the universe, without losing authority and accuracy, need look no further."
A work written with Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, continues Barrow's fascination with the heavens, and discusses how humans, from earliest times, explained the magnificent night sky above them. The work discusses ancient peoples, such as the Minoan civilization on the Mediterranean isle of Crete—which flourished from roughly 2200 B.C.E. to 1500 B.C.E.—and what they believed about the origins of the universe, and then links this to what modern scientists know. "Much of the book is original and explains with clarity and wit ideas that are otherwise almost inaccessible," observed Joseph Silk in a review in Science. "It is a unique potpourri of historical anecdotes, philosophical arguments, mathematical derivations, and physics jargon."
Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being, features six essays on philosophy, history, and the culture of mathematics. Barrow attempts to explain the mystery of why humans felt a need to count things in their world in the first place, and the subsequent realization of why everything in the universe seems to follow a mathematical pattern of some sort. His essays here present three arguments—that humans invented math, that math itself may be an integral part of the universe, or, a more difficult construct, that math's theorems stand outside of the universe and nature. Barrow argues that mathematics is humankind's way of tying itself to the cosmos, and along the way discusses such diverse topics as Galileo's experiments, the work of Kurt Godel, and crypotology's "trapdoor." Numbers seem to hold a form of "truth" for human intelligence, as Barrow tries to demonstrate, and attaining mastery over them helped usher in Western civilization itself. Commonweal critic Chet Raymo, however, tied in Barrow's ideas to theological matters. "It requires but a simple step to imagine that mathematics allows us a glimpse of the eternal, omnipresent, creative foundation of the world," Raymo noted, and extolled Pi in the Sky as a work that, more than any other, is "likely to provide a bridge across the chasm that has separated science and theology since the time of Galileo. Let the theologians take up where Barrow leaves off." New York Times Book Review contributor John Allen Paulos commended Pi in the Sky, commenting upon "Barrow's intense intellectuality and heady philosophical reflection."
A continuation of these arguments is found in The Artful Universe, in which the author attempts to show how humans have replicated the patterns of the universe in their own lives. Timekeeping, for instance, follows the clockwork of the heavens, and in a chapter titled "The Natural History of Noise," Barrow considers musical patterns and the application of mathematical principals to scale and harmony. He explains the difference between "white noise" and its "pink" counterpart—the former is inaudible to us, but Barrow believes that humans are conditioned to pick up pink noise, in which loudness varies inversely with pitch. He also delves into the visual arts in exploring the link between the creative mind and the cosmos. "[O]ur evolutionary past might well have moulded our aesthetic appreciation," noted Peter Tallack in a New Statesman & Society review of the book, "leaving us with a penchant for African savannah landscapes yet curiously antipathetic to computer-generated art." A Mercury contributor appraised it favorably. "This book abounds with provocative ideas," commented Michael R. Molnar. "It moves across such topics as death and immortality, the origins of the constellations, the beauty of fractals, and the development of languages."
In Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits, Barrow raises the question of how much knowledge the human mind is capable of grasping. For example, he wonders if there are other universes whose existence we have not yet conceptualized. He also discusses what we have mastered so far, such as the paradox, and explains inflation theory. The latter term was mentioned by New York Times reviewer David Goodstein. "The idea is that the early universe went through inflationary periods when adjacent points moved apart so rapidly that all differences in density were smoothed out into insignificance," Goodstein stated. "One consequence of this idea is that the knowable universe is inside a particular homogeneous bubble, not all of which we will ever see, and which may be just one of many bubble-universes."
Barrow's achievements in the field of science writing brought him to the attention of Basic Books, which invited him to write The Origin of the Universe, part of the publishers' series on science topics written by experts in the field. The roster of series authors includes Stephen Jay Gould, writing on paleontology, and Richard Leakey, who explains human evolution for a general readership. Barrow's text concentrates on the "Big Bang" theory, and he begins with a recounting of its predecessor theories about the beginning of the universe and their eventual demise, as new advances were made in astrophysics and other fields. Much was discovered, he notes, after the launch of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, and the Hubble Telescope also helped scientists refine the Big Bang hypothesis. Barrow explains the first moments of our known world as taking place in three stages. The first lasted from zero to one second, when temperatures exceeded all known parameters; the duration of the second stage was from one to 1,000 seconds, when light elements formed; a third stage occurred after those first thousand. "It's a fascinating story, told with a wealth of analogy and a minimum of equations," observed Commonweal reviewer Nancy M. Haegel.
Barrow joined the faculty of Cambridge University in 1999, becoming professor of mathematical sciences as well as director of its Millennium Mathematics Project. His first book of the new millennium was The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe. Here he examines the concept of nothingness, which is so advanced a thought that only three other human civilizations had terms for it before the Western world—those of the Babylonian, Mayan, and Indian peoples. Barrow's book attempts to explain the significance of the zero in math, and relates it to what is known about certain phenomena in the natural world. In a vacuum, for instance, objects can be pulled together, a feat which seems to replicate itself occasionally on a calm sea between adjacent ships in the right water conditions. After touching on new developments in quantum physics, Barrow theorizes about the potential end of the universe, "when new laws of physics override the ones we know," remarked Kirkus Reviews, which called this section "intriguing—and quite beautiful." The Book of Nothing was also given high marks by a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The concept of zero and null sets, it noted, "informs infinite aspects of life and the world at large, and Barrow does an excellent job of bringing its effects to light."
Barrow continued his examinations into the nature of the universe with his 2002 title, The Constants of Nature: From Alpha to Omega—the Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe. Booklist contributor Gilbert Taylor praised Barrow's "crystalline exploration" of the deeper significance of constants in physics such as the fine structure constant and the speed of light in a vacuum, and called his book "an exemplary popular presentation of high-level science." Similarly, Library Journal writer Jack W. Weigel commended Barrow for "explaining what is known in a readable fashion for nonspecialists." However, a Kirkus Reviews critic was less sanguine about the book's potential audience: "The innumerate will flee in terror, but those with an interest in mathematical history and the strange magic of numbers should find this a satisfying excursion."
In The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless, and Endless, Barrow examines infinity as a concept, giving an overview of the history of approaches to defining it, including an examination of the work of the German mathematician Georg Cantor, whose set theory established some of the basic proofs for infinity. A reviewer for Science News noted: "Invoking the idea of infinity at every turn, Barrow explores immortality, possibilities of rebirth, time travel, and other mind-bending ideas." Writing in Booklist, Taylor praised Barrow for imparting to "general readers a feeling for the nub of thought about the mathematical, cosmic, ethical, and theological implications of infinity." Weigel, reviewing The Infinite Book in the Library Journal, commented that it was "sprinkled with numerous pertinent (and often amusing) quotes from a variety of authors." Further praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic, who termed the work "another pleasing popularization of science from an old hand," and from American Scientist reviewer Greg Ross, who found the same work to be "a useful guide to an endlessly fascinating subject." Discover critic Laurence Marschall called Barrow "a lucid and compelling writer."
In addition to his books, Barrow wrote the award-winning play Infinities. Directed by Luca Ronconi and performed in Milan and Venice, the play focuses on mathematical and scientific ideas, rather than characters. The London Guardian Unlimited critic Marcus de Sautoy called Infinities "an extraordinary piece that has more in common with installation art than with the drawing-room dramas served up in London's West End."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Journal of Physics, June 1, 1989, Richard Noer, review of The World within the World, p. 568; July 1, 1993, David Layzer, review of Theories of Everything: The Quest for Ultimate Explanation, p. 671.
American Scientist, May-June, 1984, review of The Left Hand of Creation: The Origin and Evolution of the Expanding Universe; September 1, 1999, review of Between Inner Space and Outer Space: Essays on Science, p. 464; September 1, 2005, Greg Ross, review of The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless, p. 476.
Booklist, October 1, 1994, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Origin of the Universe, p. 221; December 1, 2002, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Constants of Nature: From Alpha to Omega—the Numbers That Encode the Deepest Secrets of the Universe, p. 635; July 1, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Infinite Book, p. 1880.
Choice, July 1, 2003, E. Kincanon, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 1944; January 1, 2006, S.J. Colley, review of The Infinite Book, p. 872.
Chronicle of Higher Education, May 8, 1991, review of Theories of Everything, p. 12.
Commonweal, January 29, 1993, Chet Raymo, review of Pi in the Sky: Counting, Thinking, and Being, p. 26; April 21, 1995, Nancy M. Haegel, review of The Origin of the Universe, p. 24.
Cross Currents, fall, 1992, Philip Clayton, review of Theories of Everything.
Discover, February 1, 2006, Laurence Marschall, "In Perpetual Pursuit of Unfathomable, Incalculable Infinitude," p. 71.
Economist, February 1, 2003, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 73.
Entertainment Weekly, August 5, 2005, Wook Kim, review of The Infinite Book, p. 70.
Futurist, July 1, 2005, review of The Infinite Book, 65.
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2001, review of The Book of Nothing: Vacuums, Voids, and the Latest Ideas about the Origins of the Universe, p. 226; November 1, 2002, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 1582; May 15, 2005, review of The Infinite Book, p. 570.
Library Journal, March 1, 1992, review of Theories of Everything, p. 47; December 1, 2002, Jack W. Weigel, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 168; July 1, 2005, Jack W. Weigel, review of The Infinite Book, p. 116.
Mercury, May-June, 1984, review of The Left Hand of Creation; November-December, 1997, Michael R. Molnar, review of The Artful Universe, p. 33.
Nature, January 26, 1984, review of The Left Hand of Creation, p. 394; November 17, 1988, Owen Gingerich, review of The World within the World, p. 288; May 31, 1990, review of The World within the World, p. 398; April 11, 1991, Ian Stewart, review of Theories of Everything, p. 525; September 11, 2003, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 126; March 24, 2005, Simon Singh, review of The Infinite Book, p. 437, and Frank Close, review of Science and Ultimate Reality: Quantum Theory, Cosmology and Complexity, p. 438.
New Scientist, May 24, 1984, review of The Left Hand of Creation; July 14, 1990, review of The World within the World, p. 59; May 6, 1995, review of The World within the World, p. 41; November 16, 2002, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 42.
New Statesman & Society, December 4, 1992, Pat Coyne, review of Pi in the Sky, p. 41; November 24, 1995, Peter Tallack, review of The Artful Universe, p. 37.
New York Times Book Review, November 20, 1983, Timothy Ferris, review of The Left Hand of Creation, p. 12; February 16, 1986, Timothy Ferris, "I Think, Therefore the Universe Is," p. 20; November 15, 1992, John Allen Paulos, "Why It All Adds Up"; August 2, 1998, David Goodstein, "Don't Ask."
Omni, fall, 1995, Richard Farr, review of The Origin of the Universe, p. 32.
Physics Bulletin, July, 1984, review of The Left Hand of Creation.
Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Theories of Everything, p. 49; September 21, 1992, review of Pi in the Sky, p. 84; March 5, 2001, review of The Book of Nothing, p. 75; November 17, 2003, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 31.
Quarterly Review of Biology, December 1, 2004, Colin Beer, review of Science and Ultimate Reality, p. 405.
Science, May 23, 1986, Joseph Silk, review of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, p. 1036; March 26, 1993, Peter Borwein and Jonathan Borwein, review of Pi in the Sky, p. 1928.
Science'86, June, 1986, Robert Crease and Charles Mann, review of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, p. 75.
Science Books & Films, January 1, 1989, review of The World within the World, p. 137; March 1, 2003, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 59.
Science News, March 29, 2003, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 207; August 20, 2005, review of The Infinite Book, p. 127.
SciTech Book News, June 1, 2003, review of The Constants of Nature, p. 50.
Spectator, September 11, 1999, Hugh Lawson-Tancred, review of Between Inner Space and Outer Space, p. 42.
Times Higher Education Supplement, March 30, 1984, review of The Left Hand of Creation; March 11, 2005, Philip Anderson, "Echoes of Physics' Delphic Oracle," p. 28; August 12, 2005, David Acheson, "There Will Be No End to This Timeless Quest," p. 26.
Times Literary Supplement, August 18, 1989, Timothy Ferris, review of The World within the World, p. 892; July 26, 1991, Michael Redhead, review of Theories of Everything, p. 23; July 22, 2005, A.W. Moore, review of The Infinite Book, p. 25.
Wall Street Journal, June 21, 1991, Jim Holt, review of Theories of Everything, p. 9.
Cambridge University Web site,http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/ (May 15, 2007), "Professor John Barrow."
Guardian Unlimited (London, England) http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (November 5, 2003), Marcus du Sautoy, "To Infinity and Beyond: A Smash Hit Play Inspired by Hardcore Mathematics?," review of Infinities.
Nature.com,http://www.nature.com/ (September 6, 2007), Roald Hoffman and Sylvie Coyaud, review of Infinities.
Physicsworld.com,http://www.physicsworld.com/ (September 6, 2007), Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, review of Infinities.
Templeton Prize Web site,http://www.templetonprize.org/ (May 15, 2007), "Prize Recipients: Fact Sheet—John D. Barrow."