Programming the Universe
by: Seth Lloyd
Published by: Vintage Books
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Reviewed by Alex McGilvery
Subtitled: A Quantum Computer Scientist Takes on the Cosmos
Programming the Universe is an introduction to the world of quantum computing. In fact Seth Lloyd is a quantum computer itself. He uses this assertion to answer some of the basic questions of existence.
The author begins by exploring the nature of information and computing. He introduces the reader to the basics of the binary system and its limitation. He shows that the traditional computer cannot easily model the complexity of the universe as we experience it. The laws of thermodynamics (that energy is never lost and that entropy does not decrease) are reintroduced in terms of energy and information. Lloyd explains why not all the energy that surrounds us is available to do work. A portion of the energy is tied up in information about the universe. The universe uses energy to compute itself. This information about the universe that we don't see is entropy.
On the path to understanding the interaction of information and entropy, the reader will meet Maxwell's demon, Schrodinger's cat, typing monkeys, and some really big numbers. These characters show how our understanding of the universe has always included a balance of information and chance. By combining quantum mechanics and computing, Lloyd tackles the question of how a universe made up of only a few basic particles became so complex.
Seth Lloyd's book is an interesting read for any who wants to try a new way of looking at the universe. He provides a basic insight into cutting-edge physics, along the way giving the reader a glimpse into the rarified world of theoretical scientists.
From his web site: Seth Lloyd is Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, principal investigator at the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the designer of the first feasible quantum computer. He has been featured in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Economist, and Wired, among other publications. His name frequently appears (as both writer and subject) in the pages of Nature, New Scientist, Science, and Scientific American. He lives in Cambridge, MA.
Armchair Interviews says: Programming the Universe is a readable book that will challenge and expand the way we look at the world around us.
Author's Web site: http://www.SethLloyd.com
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