- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; Reprint edition (July 15, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0805071660
- ISBN-13: 978-0805071665
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 31 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The New Turing Omnibus: Sixty-Six Excursions in Computer Science Paperback – July 15, 1993
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“Wonderfully concise discussions . . . full of wit . . . It is nearly the perfect book for the noncomputer scientists who want to learn something about the field.” ―Nature
“Recommended as a general topics source for anyone interested in computer science. Dewdney's use of unusual and practical examples and illustrations to explain the material makes his very readable prose even better.” ―Choice
“A useful book of worthwhile diversions.” ―Computer Books Review
About the Author
A. K. Dewdney teaches computer science at the University of Western Ontario.
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The chapters are ordered haphazardly. For example, it introduces the concept of minimal complete basis before showing Boolean logic, so if you don't already know about Boolean logic, you will not really see the purpose of a complete basis.
Often the topics are not properly motivated. The worst example is the chapter on Fast Fourier Transform. It gives only the vaguest idea of what a Fourier transform is before jumping into a bunch of equations showing how a computer can calculate it. You will be left wondering why it matters. (It says that the Fourier transform is used for data and image processing, but it never actually explains what it is or how people use it. If I hadn't already known about the FT I would be under the impression that it is just some obscure equations, when it is in fact a very useful way of finding patterns in data).
It's not a bad book--I enjoyed several of the chapters. It's just not good for anything. If you've already studied computer science, you know at least 90% of what's in the book. If you haven't studied CS, you won't be able to keep up with its fast pace and tedious examples.
The 66 excursions cover a lot of ground, but often return to Turing machines, finite-state machines, and NP-completeness problems. I might have enjoyed more on algorithm analysis, computer languages, and game analysis. Additionally there are new topics since this 1992 publication, such as quantum computing, Bioinformatics, Internet related topics on virus and encrypting, and a raft of social questions including privacy. I hope the "Turing omnibus" refuels for another update.
I was hoping for short, but complete, overview of a number of topics. Something I could share with my teenagers to try and spark an interest in computer science (given that when I was their age to use a computer you had no choice but to dive in and understand how the machine worked, so it was a giant puzzle which begged to be solved). However, to keep the subject count high and the page count within reason, it feels like some necessary detail was left out, making it much harder to fully grasp or appreciate the content of each chapter.
For example, Chapter 3 (Systems of Logic) starts off easily enough but quickly jumps off to complete bases, relying on the reader to fill in gaps that they may be unable to do without having more information available. Figure 3.1, "Structure of the complete bases" would benefit from more exposition. Certainly my 14 year old had trouble making sense of the diagram.
In rereading the author's introduction, it is clear that he does not intend this book to stand on its own. I feel, however, that it would be more useful for autodidacts to pull ten or so of the excursions and add more sites to the remainder.