- Paperback: 398 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (April 29, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521199565
- ISBN-13: 978-0521199568
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 51 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,354 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Quantum Computing since Democritus 1st Edition
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"Scott Aaronson has written a beautiful and highly original synthesis of what we know about some of the most fundamental questions in science: what is information? What does it mean to compute? What is the nature of mind and of free will? Highly recommended."
Michael Nielsen, author of Reinventing Discovery
"I laughed, I cried, I fell off my chair - and that was just reading the chapter on computational complexity. Aaronson is a tornado of intellectual activity: he rips our brains from their intellectual foundations; twists them through a tour of physics, mathematics, computer science, and philosophy; stuffs them full of facts and theorems; tickles them until they cry 'Uncle'; and then drops them, quivering, back into our skulls. Aaronson raises deep questions of how the physical universe is put together and why it is put together the way it is. While we read his lucid explanations we can believe - at least while we hold the book in our hands - that we understand the answers, too."
Seth Lloyd, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of Programming the Universe
"Not since Richard Feynman's Lectures on Physics has there been a set of lecture notes as brilliant and as entertaining. Aaronson leads the reader on a wild romp through the most important intellectual achievements in computing and physics, weaving these seemingly disparate fields into a captivating narrative for our modern age of information. Aaronson wildly runs through the fields of physics and computers, showing us how they are connected, how to understand our computational universe, and what questions exist on the borders of these fields that we still don't understand. This book is a poem disguised as a set of lecture notes. The lectures are on computing and physics, complexity theory and mathematical logic and quantum physics. The poem is made up of proofs, jokes, stories, and revelations, synthesizing the two towering fields of computer science and physics into a coherent tapestry of sheer intellectual awesomeness."
Dave Bacon, Google
"... how can I adequately convey the scope, erudition, virtuosity, panache, hilarity, the unabashed nerdiness, pugnacity, the overwhelming exuberance, the relentless good humor, the biting sarcasm, the coolness and, yes, the intellectual depth of this book?"
Frederic Green, SIGACT News
"It is the very definition of a Big Ideas Book ... It's targeted to readers with a reasonably strong grounding in physics, so it's not exactly a light read ... But for those with sufficient background, or the patience to stick with the discussion, the rewards will be great."
Sean Carroll and Jennifer Ouellette, Cocktail Party Physics, Scientific American blog
"The range of subjects covered is immense: set theory, Turing machines, the P versus NP problem, randomness, quantum computing, the hidden variables theory, the anthropic principle, free will, and time travel and complexity. For every one of these diverse topics, the author has something insightful and thought provoking to say. Naturally, this is not a book that can be read quickly, and it is definitely worth repeated reading. The work will make readers think about a lot of subjects and enjoy thinking about them. It definitely belongs in all libraries, especially those serving general readers or students and practitioners of computer science or philosophy. Highly recommended."
R. Bharath, Choice
"... lively, casual, and clearly informed by the author's own important work ... stimulating ... It should prove valuable to anyone interested in computational complexity, quantum mechanics, and the theory of quantum computing."
Francis Sullivan, Physics Today
"... a wonderful, personal exploration of topics in theory of computation, complexity theory, physics, and philosophy. His witty, informal writing style makes the material approachable as he weaves together threads of complexity theory, computing theory, mathematical logic, and the math and physics of quantum mechanics (QM) and quantum computing to show how these topics interrelate to each other, what that says about the universe, and something about us ... this book is a treat."
G. R. Mayforth, Computing Reviews
Written by noted quantum computing theorist Scott Aaronson, this book takes readers on a tour through some of the deepest ideas of maths, computer science and physics. Aaronson's informal style makes this book a fascinating read for students and researchers working in physics, computer science, mathematics and philosophy.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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Although entertainingly written, the book is simply a propaganda tool for the author's fantasy. Quantum computers are supposed to be superfast and superefficient computers, far exceeding the capabilities of "classical" computers. They are supposed to be governed by the laws of quantum mechanics, as opposed to those of Newtonian mechanics. In particular, they are supposed to be based on quantum mechanical concepts such as superposition and entanglement. But it is by no means clear that these concepts are fundamental to Nature. Consequently, some very prominent thinkers in both physics and computer science communities have questioned the viability of quantum computers. Moreover, decades have sped by and millions of dollars wasted, as team after team of quantum-computer builders have failed to produce a convincing model of a "scalable" quantum computer.
There are very good reasons for this failure. For example, the corner stone of the belief that the concepts of quantum mechanics are fundamental to Nature---namely the so-called Bell's theorem---has recently been disproven by Joy Christian (whose book on the subject, "Disproof of Bell's Theorem", can be found on Amazon.com). And with the advent of Cuffaro's recent paper, "On the Necessity of Entanglement for the Explanation of Quantum Speedup", there no longer exists a justifiable reason to believe in the viability of scalable quantum computers since entanglement is just a man-made illusion. There are also many other arguments against quantum computers, some of which the author seems to be aware of. But he is dismissive, or even derisive of these arguments, for a very simple reason: His bread is deliciously buttered by the lucrative investments in the idea of quantum computers. We are talking about millions, if not billions of dollars. Needless to say, most of this money is coming from the taxpayer's pocket. The author conveniently neglects to mention this fact, as well as the fact that his bread is buttered by this money. In the book he essentially puts forward an argument to convince us why we should continue to finance his fantasy---why we should continue to pour money into the Black Hole of quantum computers.
That said, this is an absolutely marvelous introduction to what Aaronson refers to as quantitative epistemology. Aaronson here provides a basic overview of some of the most important concepts in the areas where mathematics, computation and physics meet, in an easy, comprehensible style. If you're interested in quantum mechanics, Turing machines, Godel's incompleteness theorem, or the P vs NP question, you'll find the best explanations I've seen in here.
The lectures on which this is based are all available on Aaronson's website for free, and I have read them many times over the years, but the book goes into more depth and holds together better, while keeping the humour of the originals.
This is not an easy-going book -- it requires work from the reader to follow, and you won't get all of it the first time. But nor is it an academic textbook -- there is some mathematics in it, but anyone who remembers fairly basic things like matrix multiplication should be fine following it.
In the title of this review I call it the Feynman Lectures for QC, and while it's nowhere near as thorough as that great work, it manages the rare feat of being both as clear and entertaining and as scientifically rigorous.
If you have any doubt as to whether this is the book for you or not, the lecture notes are still available to read for free on Aaronson's website. But I guarantee that if you have any interest at all in the most basic building blocks of our knowledge -- what we really know, deep down, about the way things work on the most fundamental level, you will not be disappointed in this book.
What it's got against it: Scott makes two terrible mistakes. First, he tries overhard to be conversational. Some of this is just offputting, like the many appearances of profanity in the book. (What possible purpose could this serve?) But in many cases, he simply fails to take advantage of print as a medium. You can explain things multiple times in multiple ways. More formal and less formal. Basic idea and then development. This is never done. Everything is said basically once, at some almost completely unpredictable level of detail and formality.
The second problem is that Aaronson makes no distinction -- and I mean *no* distinction -- between what he actually knows and what he only thinks about. In some cases, he's speculating on things that other people know well, but he just goes on as if his opinion were gospel. A case in point is where he supports the view -- still not mainstream, I don't think -- that something "weird" happens when you cross the event horizon of a black hole not for any physical reason, but because he simply felt that "it should be that way." I'm sorry. If I want to adopt someone's vague intuition on this as physically accurate, I'll ask a physicist.
In other cases, he's speculating on things that no one knows about. But he still presents his speculations as if they were fact.
It's really a pity. I would have been pretty happy reading those speculations if they had only been clearly identified as such.
To see how a book like this can be done, check out Tegmark's "Our Mathematical Universe." That book is considerably less technical than this one (and the subject matter is very different), but does a wonderful job of avoiding the pitfalls into which Aaronson has fallen.
Most recent customer reviews
The book title is quite misleading: Most of the book is not about Quantum Computing !The Nature of ComputationRead more
Spans many interesting views about the above subjects.