What do we know of limits to knowledge? In the book of Job, God issues a challenge, “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” (40:2), concluding the book with a tour de force which leaves us in awe of His power but no more the wiser with regard to our original question. In this talk, I define impossibility theory to be to the formal study of impossible problems, of questions we can formally demonstrate we cannot answer. I consider computability theory as an example of an impossibility result from Computer Science and consider how this result impacts the daily lives of researchers in the field.
Elliott Slaughter is a Ph.D. student studying Computer Science at Stanford advised by Alex Aiken, with research interests spanning programming languages, compilers, and parallel and distributed computing. His most recent project, Legion, is a parallel programming system for machines ranging from desktops to supercomputers.