Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About (Lecture Notes) First Printing Edition
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From the Inside Flap
Perhaps no one is more qualified to address these questions than Donald E. Knuth, whose massive contributions to computing have led others to nickname him "The Father of Computer Science"—and whose religious faith led him to understand a fascinating analysis of the Bible called the 3:16 project. In this series of six spirited, informal lectures, Knuth explores the relationships between his vocation and his faith, revealing the unique perspective that his work with computing has lent to his understanding of God.
His starting point is the 3:16 project, an application of mathematical "random sampling" to the books of the Bible. The first lectures tell the story of the project's conception and execution, exploring its many dimensions of language translation, aesthetics, and theological history. Along the way, Knuth explains the many insights he gained from such interdisciplinary work. These theological musings culminate in a surprising final lecture tackling the ideas of infinity, free will, and some of the other big questions that lie at the juncture of theology and computation.
Things a Computer Scientist Rarely Talks About, with its charming and user-friendly format—each lecture ends with a question and answer exchange, and the book itself contains more than 100 illustrations—is a readable and intriguing approach to a crucial topic, certain to edify both those who are serious and curious about their faiths and those who look at the science of computation and wonder what it might teach them about their spiritual world.
Includes "Creativity, Spirituality, and Computer Science," a panel discussion featuring Harry Lewis, Guy L. Steele, Jr., Manuela Veloso, Donald E. Knuth, and Mitch Kapor.
From the Back Cover
- Item Weight : 1.05 pounds
- Paperback : 257 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9781575863269
- ISBN-13 : 978-1575863269
- Dimensions : 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Publisher : Center for the Study of Language and Inf; First Printing edition (August 1, 2003)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 157586326X
- Customer Reviews:
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The lectures, however, draws a lot of examples from his project on Bible 3:16. At times, it seemed to be better to read his book on Bible 3:16 first, and then read this lecture series. He has been candid in stating his belonging to a specific branch of the Christianity (Lutheran), and at times the lectures gave a feeling that a thorough study of Bible (or history of Bible) would be helpful before reading this lecture series.
Setting that apart, there is enough food for thought to a computer scientist. The first lecture states when it comes to theology Mr. Knuth is a user, not a developer. That instills a unique feeling to every programmer and computer scientist I am sure: when it comes to programming this tribe sits in the developers seat and they can now imagine how they can be perceived by the users if the work is done right.
My second takeaway was the statement that talked about the importance of rational expression of all emotional feelings, but how hard it is to do in reality.
The third and final takeaway was his experience in writing "Surreal Numbers". The story of how he spent six days in Oslo to write it up, and how his mind was blanked out on the seventh day, was simply amazing. The analogy of the muse sitting on his shoulder for six days and then moved off was quite profound.
A must-read book for those who think themselves as computer scientists.
What fascinated me was the fact that Knuth being an epitome of rational perfection, being inevitably drawn deep into questioning things that are beyond the physical realm of a scientist. A man of algorithms almost appeared like an algorithm himself, if we were to deduce about him from his classical computer science work The Art of Computer Programming.
This book is a series of 6 lectures that he delivered on his experience about his interesting study of the scriptures. Instead of taking up one or two or a few standard versions of the scriptures and going through them one by one, Knuth approached his scriptural study using a randomized sampling approach. He chose Verse 16 of Chapter three from each of the 59 books from the bible, and of course being Knuth, referred endless versions of translations, and other sources.
The six lectures are,
Randomization and Religion
Glimpses of God
God and Computer Science
And the book concludes with a transcript of a panel discussion on
'Creativity, Spirituality and Computer Science'
Though this book really doesn't go deep into what he ultimately found, the account of his approach, why he undertook it, and why he did it the way he did is an interesting read.
His compulsive need for aesthetics is clearly elaborated when he decided to "Illuminate" the 59 verses using the best calligraphers from all over the world.
From the book, one is not absolutely clear whether he was able to reach the absolute Truth, or Salvation, which is the goal of spiritual studies. But he does offer pieces of suggestion that he has a better grip of things, and more at peace with the observable world than, before he undertook this work. For instance when confronted with the anomaly of Existence of Evil and an omnipotent God, he goes on and suggests, "We must try and imagine what a world without Evil would look like".
This is a book that might trigger similar pursuits for the scientific mind.
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