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The Science of Can and Can't


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A luminous guide to how the radical new science of counterfactuals can reveal the full scope of our universe

About the Author

Chiara Marletto is a Research Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. She holds degrees from the universities of Oxford and Turin. Her main research focus is in theoretical physics, and she also pursues interests in theoretical biology, epistemology and Italian literature. The Science of Can and Can't is her first trade book.


Chiara Marletto is trying to build a master theory - a set of ideas so fundamental that all other theories would spring from it. Her first step: Invoke the impossible * Quanta Magazine *
Clear, sharp and imaginative... The Science of Can and Can't will open the doors to a dazzling set of concepts and ideas that will change deeply the way you look at the world -- David Deutsch, author of The Beginning of Infinity
I enjoyed this book very much, not least because of the freshness of its approach to a subject that can easily become hard for the non-scientific mind to grasp. The theory of 'can and can't' is an intriguing way of describing problems that are not only scientific (it describes very well what a storyteller does, for instance), and Marletto's account of some things I thought I more or less understood (the nature of digital information, for one) illuminated them from an angle that showed them more clearly than I'd seen them before. -- Philip Pullman
A revolutionary recasting of physics... [It] re-enchants the world and enriches our place in it. * New Scientist *
Hugely ambitious, Chiara Marletto is the herald for a revolutionary new direction for physics. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of physics -- Professor Lee Smolin, author of Time Reborn
Chiara Marletto writes well about deep issues. I particularly like her suggestion that the current impasse in attempts to unite gravity and quantum mechanics might be broken if we concentrate on what things the two theories tell us can and can't be done -- Julian Barbour, author of The Janus Point
[Marletto] calls for physics to move beyond its dependence on such conditions and rules as Newton's laws of motion, argues that the "traditional conception" of physics is limiting, and urges that counterfactuals offer a more complete picture of the physical world. Marletto leads a whirlwind tour of such scientific concepts as motion and the possibility of a perpetual motion machine; thermodynamics and "the theory of the universal constructor"; and quantum computing and the possibility of a universal quantum computer that uses "all of quantum theory" * Publishers Weekly *

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