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Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2015

    In Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes

    In Programming the Universe: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos, the structure and functions of the universe are compared to those of a quantum computer. At the core of the story is the notion that the universe can be viewed as a quantum computer that operates a sort of cosmic program. This novel, which belongs to the genre of popular science, was written in first-person narration in 2006 by Seth Lloyd, who is a professor of computer science at MIT. He was responsible for suggesting the first workable prototype for a quantum computer, and so he is therefore an expert on the subject that he explores in depth through his writing. Lloyd shows the reader in his seminal work that the laws of physics can be extended to carry out quantum computations and, conversely, that a quantum computer can in fact recreate the operation of certain laws governing the realm of physics. He argues that quantum simulation, which is the process by which a quantum computer simulates a different quantum system, is the best means to understand the universe and its computational power. Before he proves that the nature of the universe is fundamentally computational, and that all things in the universe can be reduced in their simplest forms to collections of bits, however, he systematically defines very basic terms such as bits and binary, in addition to characteristics of a simple quantum computer, and discusses other theories related to science such as the laws of thermodynamics, entropy, the behavior of light, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and atomic motion. He also provides illuminating stories from the history of the rise of information-processing technologies. The extent to which Lloyd thoroughly explains these facts, systems, and precepts sets the stage for his grand and complex view of the universe and offers the reader with a foundation to understand such a theory. This novel radically altered the way in which I perceive the universe.  His attempt to uncover the underlying language of nature in computational terms is truly fascinating. Although the topic that Lloyd was dealing with was immensely complicated, and there were certain sections that were difficult to understand due to my limited background in physics and computer science, the personal anecdotes about his life and career that the author interspersed throughout helped me to understand what he was articulating. I particularly liked the parts of his discussion that were more philosophical, covering ideas like what complexity really is and what specifically makes humankind different from any other assemblage of matter, in addition to theorizing how humanity fits into this new world of science and computation. He touched on subjects ranging from chaos to thought to ignorance. That being said, I believe that other subsections in the book like those related to quantum mechanics and algorithmic probability would be highly challenging to for someone to wrap his or her head around without a background in fields associated with these topics. However, this novel is highly interesting, and I would recommend it to those eager to delve deeper into learning about the laws that govern the universe and how they can be connected to computer science. An interest in physics and computing is required. Though Lloyd has not written any other books, I would like to read additional scientific articles of which he is the author. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2015

    Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor and one of the creators of the firs

    Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor and one of the creators of the first quantum computer, explains the intricate details of how computers work, along with how the universe does. In his book, Programming the Universe, Seth Lloyd explains what exactly a computer is in the broader sense of it; he explains that it is a machine that processes information. From there, he continues by discussing what information actually is and then going into different types of computers; something as seemingly simple as an abacus is far more complex than it seems at first, he explains. It, too, is a computer. He continues by going into more depth about the first modern computers, back from the nineteen forties. After discussing the beginning of modern computers with tubes, he goes on to explaining how digital computers operate today using bits, having evolved from those early, non-digital computers. All the while he sporadically adds stories from teaching at MIT.
    This book allows the reader to understand the basis of modern computers. Seth Lloyd explains binary and other concepts of computers very well so that readers are surely able to understand how computers use binary; while binary at first may seem very foreign to the common person who’s accustomed to the base ten system, Seth Lloyd explains how it works, its significance, and why it is used by computers. When explaining, he makes sure to use relatable examples and compare it to what the reader already has a good sense of: in this case, the normal base ten system.
    An interesting aspect of this book is that it doesn’t only discuss how computers work; instead, this book discusses many more topics than just that. For instance, this book does an excellent job explaining deeper aspects of how the universe works. Seth Lloyd discusses the different laws of thermodynamics and their effects on computers. There are also sections that explain the different subatomic particles, including quarks, photons, electrons, and more. Not only does this book discuss those topics, but it goes into how common terms used by physicists that affect the universe, computers, and daily life. What is entropy? He explains it, along with the effect that it has on computers. How does it affect erasure of computer memory? He answers these questions and goes in depth on how deleting data works, and why deleted data isn’t always gone like people may incorrectly think.
    I’m reading this book for a high school project for Computer Science and it is fascinating. I’m very interested in science and this book will be interesting for anyone curious to learn how common things and fundamental aspects of our world operate. While I think that this is an interesting book, someone who has no interest at all in physics, the quantum world, or the workings of computers may have trouble reading this. If you are one of these people, it isn’t for you. For someone not interested in the topics, this book may be a bit hard to follow and readers might have trouble staying focused; in addition there are sections of the book that could get a bit daunting. For someone who only likes some of these fields, he or she may have to read some parts less carefully than others. Overall, though, for someone who is fascinated by this, this book can be a helpful read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2009

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    Posted February 14, 2012

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    Posted January 7, 2015

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    Posted June 8, 2010

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    Posted January 26, 2010

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    Posted November 15, 2011

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