Books

Books : reviews

Richard P. Feynman, Anthony J. G. Hey, Robin W. Allen.
Feynman Lectures on Computation.
Addison Wesley. 1996

rating : 3 : worth reading
review : 23 March 1999

Most people who write books about computation starting at the level of assembly language would then work up from there; Feynman works down, covering lots of the fascinating nitty-gritty stuff that he, as a physicist, is interested in. So there is lots of material here that is rarely found in computing texts, and certainly even more rarely found in as accessible a form as this. And the lectures that are right down in the physics -- on thermodynamically reversible computation and quantum computing -- are some of today's hot topics: Feynman, as usual, was way ahead of his time.

This is a write-up of a series of lectures Feynman gave at CalTech in the mid 1980s, transcribed from tape recordings. So the chapters capture the flavour of the great man's lecturing style, and the informality of the spoken word. But although I am a great admirer of Feynman's, I don't think the change of medium works too well in this case. I'd love to hear these lectures, but when reading, I would prefer a deeper and more polished form.

Contents:

Introduction to Computers
Computer Organization
The Theory of Computation
Coding and Information Theory
Reversible Computation and the Thermodynamics of Computing
Quantum Mechanical Computers
Physical Aspects of Computation
A. J. G. Hey. Afterword: Memories of Richard Feynman.

Anthony J. G. Hey, ed.
Feynman and Computation: exploring the limits of computers.
Westview Press. 2002

Contents

John Archibald Wheeler. Information, Physics, Quantum: The Search for Links. 1989
John J. Hopfield. Feynman and Computation. 2002
John J. Hopfield. Neural Networks and Physical Systems with Emergent Collective Computational Abilities. 1982
Carver A. Mead. Feynman as a Colleague. 2002
Carver A. Mead. Collective Electrodynamics I. 1997
Gerald Jay Sussman. A Memory. 2002
Gerald Jay Sussman, Jack Wisdom. Numercial Evidence that the Motion of Pluto is Chaotic. 1988
Richard P. Feynman. There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. 1960
Rolf Landauer. Information is Inevitably Physical. 2002
Carver A. Mead. Scaling of MOS Technology to Submicrometer Feature Sizes. 1994
Marvin L. Minsky. Richard Feynman and Cellular Vacuum. 2002
Richard P. Feynman. Simulating Physics with Computers. 1982
Paul Benioff. Quantum Robots. 2002
Charles H. Bennett. Quantum Information Theory. 2002
Richard J. Hughes. Quantum Computation. 2002
Richard P. Feynman. Computing Machines in the Future. 1985
Geoffrey C. Fox. Internetics: Technologies, Applications and Academic Fields. 2002
W. Daniel Hillis. Richard Feynman and the Connection Machine. 1989
Norman H. Margolus. Crystalline Computation. 2002
Edward F. Fredkin. Feynman, Barton and the Reversible Schrodinger Difference Equation. 2002
Tommaso Toffoli. Action, or the Fungibility of Computation. 2002
Wojciech H. Zurek. Algorithmic Randomness, Physical Entropy, Measurements, and the Demon of Choice. 1998