The Nature of Computation

The Nature of Computation

Hardback

By (author) Stephan Mertens, By (author) Cristopher Moore

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 1004 pages
  • Dimensions: 195mm x 250mm x 64mm | 2,356g
  • Publication date: 9 October 2011
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199233217
  • ISBN 13: 9780199233212
  • Illustrations note: 338 b/w line illustrations, and 30 b/w halftones
  • Sales rank: 246,158

Product description

Computational complexity is one of the most beautiful fields of modern mathematics, and it is increasingly relevant to other sciences ranging from physics to biology. But this beauty is often buried underneath layers of unnecessary formalism, and exciting recent results like interactive proofs, phase transitions, and quantum computing are usually considered too advanced for the typical student. This book bridges these gaps by explaining the deep ideas of theoretical computer science in a clear and enjoyable fashion, making them accessible to non-computer scientists and to computer scientists who finally want to appreciate their field from a new point of view. The authors start with a lucid and playful explanation of the P vs. NP problem, explaining why it is so fundamental, and so hard to resolve. They then lead the reader through the complexity of mazes and games; optimization in theory and practice; randomized algorithms, interactive proofs, and pseudorandomness; Markov chains and phase transitions; and the outer reaches of quantum computing. At every turn, they use a minimum of formalism, providing explanations that are both deep and accessible. The book is intended for graduate and undergraduate students, scientists from other areas who have long wanted to understand this subject, and experts who want to fall in love with this field all over again.

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Author information

Stephan Mertens got his Diploma in Physics in 1989, and his Ph.D. in Physics in 1991, both from Georg-August University Gottingen. He holds scholarships from the "Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes", Germany's most prestigious organisation sponsoring the academically gifted. After his Ph.D. he worked for three years in the software industry before he joined the faculty of Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg as a theoretical physicist. His research focuses on disordered systems in statistical mechanics, average case complexity of algorithms, and parallel computing.

Review quote

A creative, insightful, and accessible introduction to the theory of computing, written with a keen eye toward the frontiers of the field and a vivid enthusiasm for the subject matter. Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University To put it bluntly: this book rocks! It's 900+ pages of awesome. It somehow manages to combine the fun of a popular book with the intellectual heft of a textbook, so much so that I don't know what to call it (but whatever the genre is, there needs to be more of it!). Scott Aaronson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Moore and Mertens guide the reader through the interesting field of computational complexity in a clear, broadly accessible and informal manner, while systematically explaining the main concepts and approaches in this area and the existing links to other disciplines. The book is comprehensive and can be easily used as a textbook, at both advanced undergraduate and postgraduate levels, but is equally useful for researchers in neighbouring disciplines, such as statistical physics [...]. Some of the material covered, such as approximability issues and Probabilistically Checkable Proofs is typically not presented in books of this type, and the authors do an excellent job in presenting them very clearly and convincingly. David Saad, Aston University, Birmingham A treasure trove of ideas, concepts and information on algorithms and complexity theory. Serious material presented in the most delightful manner! Vijay Vazirani, Georgia Instituute of Technology In a class by itself - in The Nature of Computation, Cristopher Moore and Stephan Mertens have produced one of the most successful attempts to capture the broad scope and intellectual depth of theoretical computer science as it is practiced today. The Nature of Computation is one of those books you can open to a random page and find something amazing, surprising and, often, very funny. American Scientist

Table of contents

1. Prologue ; 2. The Basics ; 3. Insights and Algorithms ; 4. Needles in a Haystack: The class NP ; 5. Who is the Hardest One of All: NP-Completeness ; 6. The Deep Question: P vs. NP ; 7. Memory, Paths and games ; 8. Grand Unified Theory of Computation ; 9. Simply the Best: Optimization ; 10. The Power of Randomness ; 11. Random Walks and Rapid Mixing ; 12. Counting, Sampling, and Statistical Physics ; 13. When Formulas Freeze: Phase Transitions in Computation ; 14. Quantum Computing ; 15. Epilogue ; 16. Appendix: Mathematical Tools