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Feynman Lectures On Computation Revised ed. Edition
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35 years ago, if one were teaching a course on the theory of computation, I'd have recommended Minsky's book (it came out in 1967). That was a great text. Nowadays, there are numerous choices. But one could still use books that originally came out well before Feynman's notes, such as Lewis & Papadimitriou or Hopcroft, Motwani, and Ullman.
The question boils down to the quality of what is in the book, as well as what material it has that other books do not, and what material it is missing that most other texts have.
This book is quite readable and preserves much of Feynman's teaching style. So let's look at what it is missing. First, it doesn't talk much about real neurons. Of course, even Minsky doesn't dwell much on that, and other computation books avoid that topic too. But now, there's a more serious omission. Feynman spends something like two pages on grammars! If you were using Lewis and Papadimitriou (first edition) there would be a chapter of over 70 pages on context-free languages alone. As a teacher or a student, would you really want to miss all that?
No, as a student, you would have to read up on all that material elsewhere. And as a teacher, you would have to use another book or write your own notes. That material is too much a part of most required curricula.
But that doesn't take away from the value of the book when it comes to the rest of the material.Read more ›
Chapter 3, on the basic theory of computation, introduces not only the Turing machine, but also the basic idea of what things can and can not possibly be computed and why. He also explains the "universal" machine, and the meaning of universality that mathematically steps up from any one machine to all machines. The next chapters discuss coding theory. That has body of knowledge has since become pervasive in our every-day lives, even if it's never visible. After that two chapters present the physical limits to computation, and how computation can approach those limits using quantum mechanics.
This includes the superfically odd idea of reversible computation. I say odd because, for example, knowing that two numbers add up to six doesn't tell you whether the two were five and one, zero and six, or some other combination. You normally can't run addition backwards from the sum to the summands, so standard addition is said to be irreversible. Reversibility gives amazing properties to a system, however, and things like the Toffoli gates show how it can be implemented.
The only disappointments in this book come from the very beginning and very end. The beginning describes what a computer is, as if the reader had never heard of computers before. I guess that basic level is still needed, but is no longer needed at the college level. The very end describes silicon technology, as it was known in the early 1980s.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I found the first 4 chapters of the book the most interesting and engaging. They covered the fundamentals of computer organization, the theory of computation, information theory... Read morePublished on August 2, 2013 by Babak Makkinejad
I was told this would be the book where Feynman laid the foundations for quantum computing. In actuality, most of it is a rather haphazard tour of selected topics from basic... Read morePublished on April 11, 2011 by Guido van Rossum
This series of lectures, Like Feynmans physics lectures, start from the very beginning and proceed quickly. Read each chapter several times before moving on to the next. Read morePublished on January 12, 2008 by Franz K.
There is an amazing amount of material in this small volume, and it is presented in Feynman's
very clear style. Read more
We physicists want a readable book on computability, degrees of computational complexity, and the like. Feynman would have been the writer to provide us with that. Read morePublished on February 19, 2004 by Professor Joseph L. McCauley
I find this book dissapointing. It doesn't compare with the insight, clarity, and beauty found in the famous "Feynman lectures in physics". Read morePublished on November 28, 2003 by galaxy_express_899