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Introduction to the Theory of Computation (Advanced Topics) 2nd Edition

31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0534950972
ISBN-10: 0534950973
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Editorial Reviews


"For the market this text addresses, Introduction to the Theory of Computation, Second Edition is an outstanding text without peer." - Christopher Wilson, University of Oregon

"This is a model for readability, with a sensitivity for what students find difficult."

About the Author

Michael Sipser has taught theoretical computer science and mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the past 32 years. He is a Professor of Applied Mathematics, a member of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), and the current head of the mathematics department. He enjoys teaching and pondering the many mysteries of complexity theory.

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Product Details

  • Series: Advanced Topics
  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Course Technology; 2 edition (February 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0534950973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0534950972
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,078 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Brett Bernstein on May 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a teacher of the subject, I have had the chance to evaluate numerous books on the theory of computation. Of all the available texts, I think this one is the most appropriate for CS students. In the past I taught out of Dexter Kozen's book, which is incredibly elegant, but had some resistance from the students. Thinking it over I decided that Kozen's text, although beautiful, may be better suited to students pursuing a degree in pure math. Sipser's book, on the other hand, is more gentle. I find that Sipser demands far less mathematical maturity from his readers, and thus allows the difficulty to be shifted from excessive formalism to the inherent challenges present in the material. In addition, following Sipser's treatment, I was able to cover finite state machines and pushdown automata in far less time, thus allowing me to concentrate on computability and beyond. The book really shines in its treatment of computability theory, eloquently directing attention to some of the most beautiful aspects.

Another benefit of Sipser's book is the exercises, of which there are many more in this edition. Someone studying on their own should find the initial group of exercises in each section quite approachable. Even the more challenging problems are not incredibly hard, and typically draw their difficulty from the deeper themes of the chapter instead of obscure details.

If you are looking for an enjoyable, well-paced book with an introduction to computability and complexity that is truly inspiring, this is the one for you. A mathematician looking for a bit more rigor may do better with Kozen.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L. Blunden on February 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a long experience with software development, but not much background in computation theory, just fascinating tidbits I have picked up here and there. So, this book for the first time deepens and organizes for me this hightly abstract and difficult topic.

Being a novice, I at first was afraid that the text of the book would be beyond my understanding. It was not. For sure, the proofs are difficult and may appeal to the person with a degree in computer science. But the copious diagrams, figures and tables are wonderful supplements to the understandable text. For the first time I really could grasp the subtleties of the finit automata, non-determinism, regular expressions, pushdown automata and other topics.

Certainly I can recommend this book to the beginner at computation theory, and even to the more advanced student who may want to review the topic.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Christopher D. Smith on November 24, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful little gem of a book that presents the theory of computation in a fascinating way. It is targeted at advanced undergraduates in computer science, but assumes remarkably little prior knowledge, making it accessible to nearly anyone. The book covers a lot of ground, including the standard fare of automata, computability, and complexity results, plus some bonus material such as probablistic and parallel complexity, information theory, decidable logical theories, and other topics that are normally left out of introductory books. On top of this, the book is remarkably thin!

The best attribute of Sipser's book, though, is the engaging style. This is an easy book to read. You will not feel like you're running into a brick wall, as is sometimes the case with books on abstract topics. It's not so much that the book is slow or gentle (it's really not) as that it is interesting, engaging, and has a knack for stopping short of getting too caught up in details. A number of small things -- the occasional amusing exercise, the "proof idea" sections, or helpful pictures -- add up to an enjoyable reading experience.

Two cautions are appropriate to students considering this book. First, there are variations between authors in the definitions of various automata (especially PDAs). The differences are trivial, and more a matter of taste than of any real importance; but it could come up if you use Sipser as a supplement to a course that follows a different textbook. Second, the coverage of many topics in Sipser's book is brief and concise, sometimes more than you might like. Some important concepts (for example, pairwise distinguishability of strings) are only mentioned in exercises, not in the main chapter, so at least skim all the exercises even if you don't do them. The sketchy coverage is especially pronounced in advanced topics, so (as always) expect to do some filling in of concepts if you go on into further study of this area.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David A. Neu on January 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As an intro to the theoretical background to computer science goes, this book is about as readable and approachable as you can get.

It gives a very thorough treatment of the whole theoretical basis, from regular languages and pumping lemmas out through Turing machines and related issues, and on to some interesting language classes (like NP and PSpace-complete).

If there's a single sticking point with the book, it's that it insists on a very strict formalism (ie: everything is proof-based) -- something necessary for the topic, but it sometimes renders the material a bit hard to digest.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Rowe on December 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you are interested in or for other reasons must read a book on this subject, this is the book. I took a class last semester which used Hopcroft as the text and I found myself often turning to this book for better understanding. This book is more intuitive and thus a bit less formal than Hopcroft but when trying to learn, understanding is better than mathematical formalism. If you are new to the subject, Sipser is the book to begin with.
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