Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse

Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse

The Quest for the Quantum Computer

The traditional and ubiquitous digital computer has changed the world by processing series of binary ones and zeroes...very fast. Like the sideshow juggler spinning plates on billiard cues, the classical computer moves fast enough to keep the plates from falling off. As computers become faster and faster, more and more plates are being added to more and more cues.
Imagine, then, a computer in which speed is increased not because it runs faster, but because it has a limitless army of different jugglers, one for each billiard cue. Imagine the quantum computer.
Julian Brown's record of the quest for the Holy Grail of computing -- a computer that could, in theory, take seconds to perform calculations that would take today's fastest supercomputers longer than the age of the universe -- is an extraordinary tale, populated by a remarkable cast of characters, including David Deutsch of Oxford University, who first announced the possibility of computation in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of quantum mechanics; Ed Fredkin, who developed a new kind of logic gate as a true step toward universal computation; and the legendary Richard Feynman, who reasoned from the inability to model quantum mechanics on a classical computer the logical inevitability of quantum computing.
For, in the fuzzily indeterminate world of the quantum, new computing power is born. Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse details the remarkable uses for quantum computing in code breaking, for quantum computers will be able to crack many of the leading methods of protecting secret information, while offering new unbreakable codes. Quantum computers will also be able to model nuclear and subatomic reactions; offer insights into nanotechnology, teleportation, and time travel; and perhaps change the way chemists and biotechnologists design drugs and study the molecules of life. Farthest along the trail blazed by these pioneers is the ability to visualize the multiple realities of the quantum world not as a mathematical abstraction, but as a real map to a world of multiple universes...a multiverse where every possible event -- from a particular chess move to a comet striking the Earth -- not only can happen, but does.
Incorporating lively explanations of ion trap gates, nuclear magnetic resonance computers, quantum dots, quantum algorithms, Fourier transforms, and puzzles of quantum physics, and illustrated with dozens of vivid diagrams, Minds, Machines, and the Multiverse is a mind-stretching look at the still-unbuilt but fascinating machines that, in the words of physicist Stanley Williams, "will reshape the face of science" and offer a new window into the secrets of an infinite number of potential universes.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743242639 | 
  • April 2002
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Late-Night Quantum Thoughts

Any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.

Arthur C. Clarke

Life in Other Universes

Gaunt, hair unkempt, and skin a ghostly shade, David Deutsch cuts a strange figure even by the standards of the eccentrics and oddballs that so often inhabit the upper reaches of science. Yet appearances can be deceptive. Talk to Deutsch and you won't find the withdrawn, head-in-the-clouds academic you might expect but someone who is articulate, personable, and exceedingly bright. You'll also quickly discover this is an individual whose ideas about life... see more

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