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Minds, Machines, and the Multiuniverse


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About the Author

Julian Brown specializes in physics and computing as a science journalist. New Science Magazine has featured his work prominently, and he has produced science specials for BBC and BBC World Service. He teamed up with Paul Davies to edit The Ghost in the Atom and Superstrings: A Theory of Everything.


A quantum computer, unlike today's digital computers, does not process information one bit at a time but determines all possible solutions simultaneously. Although practical applications are still years away, such a machine theoretically can handle many of the major simulation and mathematical problems currently beyond the capability of even the largest current parallel processors. Brown, a writer for New Scientist, covers an immense variety of subjects in this book, most of which touch in some way on quantum physics, and he devotes a considerable amount of effort to making his exposition understandable. Some of the analogies he uses to simplify complex ideas work well, while others left this reader more confused than before--possibly reflecting a lack of strong background in physics but still a potential problem for other readers. Brown also throws in a substantial philosophical treatment of artificial intelligence. An interesting topic but not easy reading; for academic and larger public libraries.--Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Computers get faster as microprocessors get smaller and denser, requiring fewer subatomic particles to toggle between zero and one. When silicon chips rely on single electrons, will computing power have hit a wall? Or will the future's computers use quantum properties to acquire undreamt-of powers? In this intriguing, fast-moving book, Brown (a longtime writer for Britain's prestigious New Scientist) asks those questions, shuttling among the physics, mathematics and information theory that would enable quantum computing, and the practical, technical work required to make it happen. He considers the class of quantum computing roadblocks that involves heat disposal, introduces us to "complexity theory," something called "decoherence" and "ion traps" (the closest step yet to a quantum computer that works; research into it is currently taking place under the auspices of America's National Security Administration). Brown also profiles quantum-computer theorist David Deutsch--an engagingly eccentric Oxford physicist--as well as such famous scientists as Richard Feynman and IBM's Charles Bennett (who figured out how, "in theory," "one can compute using no energy at all"). The English-speaking world has plenty of books explaining computers, quantum theory and the attendant wacky philosophical implications, but Brown transcends these categories, showing how physics relates to computation and how their alliance affects the future of both. His enthusiastic, patient explanations of fairly difficult mathematics distinguishes his book. Illustrations. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Charles H. Bennett IBM Fellow, Thomas J. Watson Research Center An eminently readable account of recent developments in quantum information science, their philosophical implications, and what (if any) relation quantum mechanics might have to human consciousness.
Gilles Brassard Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and Professor of Computer Science, University of Montreal A remarkably well-written account of this exciting new paradigm that could change forever our views on computing. Highly recommended.
Norman Margolis, Research Professor Center for Computational Science, Boston University This is a wonderful book and a lucid and engaging introduction to many of the most fundamental and surprising aspects of quantum mechanics.
Paul Davies author of "The Fifth Miracle" and "God and the New Physics" Quantum computation could revolutionize the information age and trigger as big an impact on society as the conventional computer. It promises to transform not just science and technology but our very understanding of reality -- both real and virtual. With extraordinary skill, Julian Brown explains the important but subtle topic in surprisingly comprehensible terms. His meticulous technical discussion is embellished with personal anecdotes and humorous commentary. A masterpiece of scientific exposition, and a must for anyone wishing to keep abreast of cutting-edge research.
Seth Lloyd Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT From the secret life of atoms to the mysteries of the mind, Brown provides a highly accessible guide to the ways in which the universe computes.

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