In this first of two papers, strong limits on the accuracy of physical computation are established. First it is proven that there cannot be a physical computer C to which one can pose any and all computational tasks concerning the physical universe. Next it is proven that no physical computer C can correctly carry out any computational task in the subset of such tasks that can be posed to C. This result holds whether the computational tasks concern a system that is physically isolated from C, or instead concern a system that is coupled to C. As a particular example, this result means that there cannot be a physical computer that can, for any physical system external to that computer, take the specification of that external system's state as input and then correctly predict its future state before that future state actually occurs; one cannot build a physical computer that can be assured of correctly 'processing information faster than the universe does'. The results also mean that there cannot exist an infallible, general-purpose observation apparatus, and that there cannot be an infallible, general-purpose control apparatus. These results do not rely on systems that are infinite, and/or non-classical, and/or obey chaotic dynamics. They also hold even if one uses an infinitely fast, infinitely dense computer, with computational powers greater than that of a Turing Machine. This generality is a direct consequence of the fact that a novel definition of computation - a definition of 'physical computation' - is needed to address the issues considered in these papers. While this definition does not fit into the traditional Chomsky hierarchy, the mathematical structure and impossibility results associated with it have parallels in the mathematics of the Chomsky hierarchy. The second in this pair of papers presents a preliminary exploration of some of this mathematical structure, including in particular that of prediction complexity, which is a 'physical computation analogue' of algorithmic information complexity. It is proven in that second paper that either the Hamiltonian of our universe proscribes a certain type of computation, or prediction complexity is unique (unlike algorithmic information complexity), in that there is one and only version of it that can be applicable throughout our universe.