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Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse: THE QUEST FOR THE QUANTUM COMPUTER Paperback – April 5, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743242637
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743242639
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,201,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Just how smart can computers get? Science journalist Julian Brown takes a hard look at the spooky world of quantum computation in Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse--and his report is optimistic. Based in large part on the groundbreaking work of David Deutsch, the book mostly sidesteps the shouting matches of the AI debate and instead explores the history of computation and quantum theory before turning to the exciting advances likely to come out of their merger. While some readers might cringe at the blithe dismissal of classical computing as a relic, Brown shows us why quantum computing is faster and more powerful, and is a good candidate for replacing its predecessor.

The author doesn't pull any mathematical punches, but injects enough humor and personalization into his writing to keep the book from crumbling to dust. Indeed, portraits of such luminaries as Deutsch and Feynman are more engaging than those found in some biographies and are enlightening on their own. But the real power and charm of Brown's prose lie in its straightforward explanation of the arcane details of the multiple-worlds theory, "qubits," and quantum logic in language any informed reader can understand. There are more questions than answers in Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse, but the questions are profoundly satisfying all by themselves. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Computers get faster as microprocessors get smaller and denser, requiring fewer subatomic particles to toggle between zero and one. When silicon chips rely on single electrons, will computing power have hit a wall? Or will the future's computers use quantum properties to acquire undreamt-of powers? In this intriguing, fast-moving book, Brown (a longtime writer for Britain's prestigious New Scientist) asks those questions, shuttling among the physics, mathematics and information theory that would enable quantum computing, and the practical, technical work required to make it happen. He considers the class of quantum computing roadblocks that involves heat disposal, introduces us to "complexity theory," something called "decoherence" and "ion traps" (the closest step yet to a quantum computer that works; research into it is currently taking place under the auspices of America's National Security Administration). Brown also profiles quantum-computer theorist David Deutsch--an engagingly eccentric Oxford physicist--as well as such famous scientists as Richard Feynman and IBM's Charles Bennett (who figured out how, "in theory," "one can compute using no energy at all"). The English-speaking world has plenty of books explaining computers, quantum theory and the attendant wacky philosophical implications, but Brown transcends these categories, showing how physics relates to computation and how their alliance affects the future of both. His enthusiastic, patient explanations of fairly difficult mathematics distinguishes his book. Illustrations. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I must say, this is one of the very best popular science books I have ever read!
nonamespecified
The nice thing about this book though, is that while it gets down into the nitty gritty you can still follow along at whatever level you are at.
Dug Fresh
Most popularizations skim over the surface of their subjects without providing enough detail to understand what is really going on.
James Newmark

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By arnold trent on May 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful overview of the history and science of this extraordinary new discipline. Brown's documentary approach interlaces explanations of quantum computers with comments from the pioneers of this field including David Deutsch and Richard Feynman. It makes for riveting reading with many witty asides thrown into some far-sighted discussions of where the subject is leading. David Deutsch comes across as a true visionary even if his ideas concerning multiple universes sound far-fetched. Rather like Penrose's, "The Emperor's New Mind", Brown caters for multiple tastes by writing for a general audience but adding (mostly in appendices) some mathematical explanations and circuit diagrams. These can be can be safely skipped without losing the narrative thread. A pity to do so though because his explanations are a delight. Thoroughly recommended.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Dug Fresh on April 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a decent sequel to David Deutsch's Fabric of Reality. Unlike much of the contemporary scene, this book doesn't dumb itself down for the lowest common denominator. The nice thing about this book though, is that while it gets down into the nitty gritty you can still follow along at whatever level you are at. Some people might give a ho-hum about quantum computers but once these people get past their own inertia they will be compelled to accept just how profoundly quantum computers will change our current collective conceptual framework. Also, at a little over half way through this book you might begin to wonder where the Mind part fits in with the Machine and Multiverse parts but by the final lines everything slips snuggly into place. Perhaps the only disappointment, which is surely not the book's fault, is that quantum computers are still only ideas not actualities. However exciting this topic may be, it is a topic about the near future, not the present, and so we are naturally left wanting more.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. Cloyce Smith on May 26, 2002
Format: Paperback
I read "Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse" (reprinted in paperback as "The Quest for the Quantum Computer") alongside David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality," thinking that Julian Brown's journalism would help elucidate Deutsch's text, which I assumed would be more difficult. Ironically, not only did I find "The Fabric of Reality" far more exciting and readable, but, even on its own terms, Brown's book was often monotonous and unimaginative.
While the first and last chapters are quite fascinating, the meat of the book reads like an endless serious of abstracts of articles excerpted from mathematical, physics, and computing journals, separated by droll subheads ("Beam Me Up, Atom by Atom"). The major problem is that Brown doesn't seem to have any particular audience in mind. On the one hand, it's hard to imagine most lay readers sitting through his detailed expositions on various mathematics and physics concepts; on the other, math-savvy readers don't need to be told (to cite just one example) what ASCII is.
It's not just that Brown's book is knee-deep in mathematics, however. In fact, the math presented is really not that difficult--it's just boringly presented. The endless series of Alice, Bob, Carol, and Eve stories has all the verve of the litany of questions on the SAT. (Several times I found myself asking, "Which Bob is this?"). Likewise, the descriptions of logic gates are about as exciting as my college textbooks on linear algebra and number theory. Brown's presentation is hampered further by the lack of a glossary; he repeatedly expects the reader to remember terms he discussed over 100 pages earlier.
In sum, computer programmers and armchair mathematicians looking for a primer on the theoretical underpinnings of quantum computation might find this book a helpful introduction. The general reader, however, will have to wait for a well-written overview of the subject. In the meantime, I recommend "The Fabric of Reality" as a starting point.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Scott Wheeler on March 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
But didn't. It tries really hard and has a noble goal, but I think falls quite short. This is a topic that I am quite passionate about and was one of the first books on the topic. At the end of reading this book you will have very many more questions and unfortunately very few clear ideas about the workings or theory of quantum computers. Over and again Brown stops just before giving you the details that you hope for. I've actually found David Deutsch's papers on quantum computing (at qubit.org) almost as accessibe and much more informative than this book, not to mention that they are much more concise.
If you're hoping to get a basic grasp of quantum computing, read John Gribben's "In Search of Schrödinger's Cat" for a non-technical crash course in quantum mechanics and then head for the scientific papers.
This book fails to gauge what a reader will be able to understand. This is a difficult task at times, but when writing "popular science" the author must choose a level to present the material at. Unfortunately in parts that aren't particularly interesting the author pushes this only to retreat at a point where things are getting interesting. You're left feeling, "No, really. I can take it!"
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Howard A. Landman on November 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is the book I recommend to all my technical friends who are wondering what quantum computing is about. Brown writes with astonishing lucidity and an intense focus on what he's trying to communicate. If this book has a flaw, it's that I think it gives Deutsch and the many-universes interpretation of QM a bit too much airtime. Deutsch's views are well-presented in many other places and it dilutes this book somewhat to spend so much time on him when it really isn't necessary.
I don't understand the review that said this book wasn't technical enough. Yes, it's not a textbook for learning how to write quantum algorithms. But it does have detailed quantum circuit diagrams for a number of useful or interesting ones. When I read this book I finally saw enough of the details to "get it". I launched from this directly into the scientific literature without getting too terribly lost.
I would recommend this book over Milburn's "The Feynman Processor". Milburn knows his material but he tends to wander a lot. His book is OK and useful, but this one is better. I'd put it in the same class as Gleick's "Chaos".
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