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The Nature of Computation 1st Edition

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199233212
ISBN-10: 0199233217
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"To put it bluntly: this book rocks! It's 900+ pages of awesome. It somehow manages to combine the fun of a popular book with the intellectual heft of a textbook, so much so that I don't know what to call it (but whatever the genre is, there needs to be more of it!)." -- Scott Aaronson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


"A creative, insightful, and accessible introduction to the theory of computing, written with a keen eye toward the frontiers of the field and a vivid enthusiasm for the subject matter." -- Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University


"If you want to learn about complexity classes, scaling laws in computation, undecidability, randomized algorithms, how to prepare a dinner with Pommard, Quail and Roquefort, or the new ideas that quantum theory brings to computation, this is the right book. It offers a wonderful tour through many facets of computer science. It is precise and gets into details when necessary, but the main thread is always at hand, and entertaining anecdotes help to keep the pace." -- Marc Mézard, Université de Paris Sud, Orsay


"A treasure trove of ideas, concepts and information on algorithms and complexity theory. Serious material presented in the most delightful manner!" -- Vijay Vazirani, Georgia Instituute of Technology


"A fantastic and unique book - a must-have guide to the theory of computation, for physicists and everyone else." -- Riccardo Zecchina, Politecnico di Torino


About the Author


Cristopher Moore graduated from Northwestern University with honors in 1986, at the age of 18, with a B.A. in Mathematics, Physics, and Integrated Science. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University at the age of 23. After a postdoc at the Santa Fe Institute, he joined the faculty of the University of New Mexico, where he holds joint appointments in Computer Science and Physics and Astronomy. He has written over 90 papers, on topics ranging from undecidability in dynamical systems, to quantum computing, to phase transitions in NP-complete problems, to the analysis of social and biological networks.

Stephan Mertens got his Diploma in Physics in 1989, and his Ph.D. in Physics in 1991, both from Georg-August University Göttingen. He holds scholarships from the "Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes", Germany's most prestigious organisation sponsoring the academically gifted. After his Ph.D. he worked for three years in the software industry before he joined the faculty of Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg as a theoretical physicist. His research focuses on disordered systems in statistical mechanics, average case complexity of algorithms, and parallel computing.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199233217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199233212
  • Product Dimensions: 9.8 x 2.3 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Josep Diaz on January 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful encyclopedic book, which covers a large range of topics from Theoretical Computer Science. The style favors intuition and clarity over technical details. Chapters 4 to 8 can be used as a textbook for an undergraduate complexity course. For computer science and mathematics students the book has the great advantage of examples from the physics world... the more advanced material can be easily used for graduate courses or seminars. For example, Chapters 12, 13 and 14 by themselves could be a perfect basic text for an advanced course in probabilistic methods in computer science and discrete mathematics. I hope future readers enjoy the book as much as I did.
(See longer review at Computer Science Reviews 5 (2011) 341.)
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By M. Villagra on March 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There are fantastic books all over theoretical computer science on the same subjects. But this one, I find it simply the best of all of them. Why? Because it explains what really computer science is about, which is computation as the object of study, and it does so in such a friendly manner and accessible to mathematicians, physicists and (of course) computer scientists of all levels. In the preface of the book explicitly says so, the objective of this book is to show why computational complexity is such a beautiful field with beautiful mathematics, without going too much deeper into the technicalities. Even though they omit the gruesome details, I felt that the understanding gained from reading the book was enough to look at the references and go directly to the papers. Thus, at the same time, this book presents a full review of all computational complexity theory. Also, the problems at the end of each chapter are very fun, and they make the reader gain a deeper understanding of the chapter and other subjects that were not covered. The notes section after each problem set are full of anecdotes and historical remarks that makes the reading experience even more wonderful.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dan MacKinlay on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book starts with high-school mathematics and takes you all the way through the amazing architecture of mathematical problems themselves. It's encyclopaedia-length, but light and readable in style all the way through, sprinkled with liberal references to Lewis Carroll, Douglas Hofstadter and various other cult favourites of the literate mathnerd. That is, this exemplifies everything good about mathematical texts. Amazing.

For background, I am a mathematics major, but I had almost no exposure to computational complexity theory before starting this book apart from, say, the awareness that matrix inversion is approximately O(n^3)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By K. Kim on July 24, 2015
Format: Hardcover
This book is an absolute gem! My colleagues and I will be using it to introduce the foundations underlying theoretical computer science for a course on quantum computation at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Although most of the students (and teachers!) in the class are physicists with a minimal background in the theory of computation, this work is so beautifully written and designed for both newcomers and experts alike. We tried using several textbooks, including the classic by Sipser, to get up to speed on the fundamentals of computational complexity, but nothing comes close to the clarity and depth of this work by Moore and Mertens. The chapters on NP completeness and P vs. NP are among the best presentations that we've seen. The writing is absolutely elegant and insightful. The problems are wonderfully crafted and creative. Reading this book has been such a great experience for me; I finally understand many of the subtle concepts and the unity of ideas that have eluded me before. We feel that this work will quickly become the standard reference in the field.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book. The contents are great, and exposition is great, the problems are great, and the notes at the end of each chapter are great. The bibliography is extensive and terrific. Probably the single nicest thing about the book is that the authors' enthusiasm for the subject really shines through.

I have no idea if the kindle version is good or bad; there are enough formulae and diagrams that it might suffer.

One note: I originally gave this book 4 stars because the binding broke as soon as I opened it (and it eventually fell apart completely!). Both the author and the publisher were absolutely awesome about getting me a replacement where the binding is clearly much better, so if you have this problem as well, reach out to OUP.

All told, a fantastic addition to the complexity literature.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Brian Malley on January 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book did not prove to be quite what I had expected when I purchased it, but I have greatly enjoyed it anyway. This book is not really about the *nature* of computation, or even about computation at all, but rather about the structure of the problem-space encountered by computational systems. It is about the different kinds of computational problems. I have found it very interesting, and this book is written in such a way that even a newbie with limited mathematics can understand the key ideas. I highly recommend this introduction to anyone interested in natural science or technology.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Parisa on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read several books on computational theory. The majority of these books make this amazing topic look agonizingly boring and difficult. This book on the other hand, makes you fall in love with the subject. If you want to have an intuitive while profound understanding of the field, this is the book, don't look any further.
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