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Feynman Lectures On Computation

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  407 ratings  ·  20 reviews
When, in 1984–86, Richard P. Feynman gave his famous course on computation at the California Institute of Technology, he asked Tony Hey to adapt his lecture notes into a book. Although led by Feynman, the course also featured, as occasional guest speakers, some of the most brilliant men in science at that time, including Marvin Minsky, Charles Bennett, and John Hopfield. A ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 7th 2000 by Westview Press (first published 1996)
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Dec 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in CS theory or the physical limits of computers
Recommended to DJ by: Oxford University quantum info course syllabus
There's a reason Richard Feynman is the most famous physics lecturer of all time. No, it's not because he held his office hours in a strip club (though he did) or that he helped develop the atomic bomb (though he did) or that he openly abused drugs, attended nudist gatherings, and played the bongos (though he did). Surely these have contributed to his legend but, most importantly, RPF was a master of the analogy.

Warning: Impending Tangent on Science Education and Modeling
Science education lends
There is much that is meritorious here: Feynman's distinctive voice comes through clearly. One gets an insight into both his teaching philosophy and his working methods. The book heavily reflects what Feynman thought was important, interesting and essential to know about the field and makes accessible some really unusual topics as well as some familiar ones (if one has ever done an entry level course on the subject). There is a 10p memoir of Feynman by the book's editor at the end, which contain ...more
Oleksandr Fialko
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
This is a nice book. Feynman's colloquial style is engaging.

Most of the material in the book is quite interesting. I was a little bit disappointed by chapter 6 (Quantum Mechanical Computers): perhaps it was too early to talk about quantum computers at that time. For example, discussion of decoherence is missing. Decoherence was first introduced in 1970 and has been a subject of active research since the 1980s. I wonder why R. Feynman did not touch it in his book.

Overall, this book provides a so
Roberto Rigolin F Lopes
Sep 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wild academic interests together with empowering teaching methodology. Emphasis on empowering! Feynman is heavily armed with wit and tease pushing you to enjoy yourself rediscovering things using your own means. This is the only way you can appreciate other people's ideas to really understand things and have fun learning. At the very beginning, he tells an amusing history about a strange sequence of numbers that he once “discovered”. Just to learn afterwards that a clever guy called Bernoulli ha ...more
Nicholas Teague
Oct 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Brilliant overview of key issues for computation. Obviously some is dated - this book is based on lectures given in '84-86 - but much of the material appears to me (speaking well outside of my domain of expertise) that would still be relevant to modern models of computation. Just because pointing out trivial mathematical errors makes me feel like I have something worthwhile to add, publisher should note that Fig. 6.3 has a bit misstated as 1 instead of 0 :). ...more
Dec 18, 2007 rated it liked it
Somewhat of a mixed bag. The first half is very interesting, then kind of loses steam towards the end. It seems like some course lecture notes were somewhat quickly tossed together to make a book; this could have benefited from a more in-depth going over by Feynman to smooth out some rough edges. Overall worth reading for a unique physicist's view of computability, but don't expect it to be up to Feynman's usual standard of quality. ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
As a computer scientist I am continually amazed at the deep understanding Feynman had of computers at every level, even (especially!) the subatomic.
Anthony O'Connor

A superb introduction to the basics of the theory of computation by one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century. Right down to the basics. Explaining everything beautifully.
The chapters on reversible computation and the thermodynamics of computation have a bit more physics in them than you might be used to if coming from a purely comp sci background but it’s worth it.
Most fascinating if all is his last chapter on quantum computing. These were lectures from the early 80s. Feynman’s f
Paige  McLoughlin
Feynman does a good job on Computation starting with ones and zeroes and logic gates and building up to theory of computing including universal Turing machines, Shannon communication and entropy, reversible computing, quantum computers, how silicon chips work. A good primer on computer technology which even though written in the 1980s is still relevant.
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it
There were some parts of this book that were gripping (thermodynamics of computing, theory of computation and languages) but unfortunately many parts were just dull (symbolic logic, intricacies of logic gates), and other parts that are accessible to physicists interested in computer science but not vice versa.
Justin R.
Dec 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lasse Larsen
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: might-read
Excellent !
Did not understand the chapter about Quantum Computing.
Excellent explanations of the most fundamental elements in computers.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the classic Feynman style, clearer and better than soome lecturers in the field!
Mark Moon
A lot of this seems pretty dated. The chapter on coding and information theory was a decent introduction, and the quantum computation material was interesting from a historical point of view, since Feynman seems to have been the first person to seriously think about quantum computers. The stuff on gates and wires and the physics of semiconductors wasn't very interesting to me, personally. ...more
Sep 14, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comp sci folks
Shelves: compsci
Feynman's mind leaps across multiple branches of science to bring powerful insights into computing. I love his approach and he delves from programming into the physics of the transistor in one fell swoop - and that's all in a single page! ...more
Chris Brittain
Mar 09, 2014 rated it did not like it
Not very usable and no big insight on computer science concepts.
Jun 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a great introduction to the electronic underpinnings of modern microcomputer systems.
Zoe C
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I really like this book. It explains how computers work with helpful analogies. I recommend this book if you are interested in electronics, computers and computation.
Feb 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Short pieces on a range of computer science topics with a truly insightful approach.
Zaki Manian
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Richard Phillips Feynman was an American physicist known for the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as work in particle physics (he proposed the parton model). For his contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman was a joint recipient of the Nobel Pr ...more

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