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Computing with Quantum Cats: From Colossus to Qubits

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  428 ratings  ·  52 reviews
The quantum computer is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Pioneering physicists are on the brink of unlocking a new quantum universe which provides a better representation of reality than our everyday experiences and common sense ever could. The birth of quantum computers – which, like Schrödinger’s famous ‘dead and alive’ cat, rely on entities like electrons, photon ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published June 20th 2013 by Bantam Press
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Tom Fewings
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it
The first two thirds chart developments in computing and quantum mechanics. Well written and highly aware of the incomprehensible nature of it's subject matter, it certainly cleaned up my understanding of the two subject. The last third is on the current state and future of quantum computing. This left me sitting in the dust like a simpleton, awaiting the next Christmas when a relative hands me another book beyond my comprehension because they heard I was in to 'science'. ...more
Brian Clegg
Jul 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
A new John Gribbin book is always a delight, and he is at his best when exploring the bizarre possibilities of quantum theory. If you aren’t familiar with his previous books on the subject, the title here might be worrying as it suggests some fiendish bio-electronic device where collections of unwilling cats are wired into a computer, but in fact it’s a follow on from earlier titles In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat and Schrödinger’s Kittens, where the relevance of the cats to the topic has become ...more
Daniel Smith
Started out great, it was a nice introduction talking about Alan Turning and his code breaking machine. And how he wasn’t actually interested at all at making what we know as a computer for domestic use after his code breaking achievement. Some of the stuff in this section describing the logic behind the machine he made started to go over my head. And I’ve highlighted it to look back over it, as the descriptions were short and seemed to assume knowledge. But I got the gist of it and I left appro ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: phd-studies
The horrible history of computers begins with an attempt to crack enigmatic codes and quickly escalated to more effective ways to commit mass murder. Along the way, numerous bright minds stand out starting off with Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers, yet more and more migrate towards Los Alamos and the American universities fanning the Cold War paranoia flame. John Bell breaks through with his non-locality theorem and the subatomic world comes alive and helps make the room-sized computer smaller, lea ...more
Shubhankur Suvansh
Another brilliant book from John Gribbin. This is my second Gribbin book. He is a prolific writer and this is one of the best of his works. The book, to quote the author, "starts with Alan Turing and the need to crack codes and ends with Turing's heirs and the need for uncrackable codes"

It is divided into three parts - 1. Computing. 2. Quanta. 3. Computing with Quanta

Part One starts with Alan Turing and his famous exploits at Bletchley Park. It overall once again highlights the fact that at a t
Sumit Gouthaman
I am not sure who this book is for...

From the description, it appears that the book is a introductory take on Quantum Computing (since it promises to take the reader from Colossus to Qubits). However, after reading halfway through it, I got a different feeling.

Some parts of the book read like a beginners textbook where the author is trying to explain complex things using plain everyday examples. However, at the same time, the author glosses over some very complex concepts without pausing to expl
Stuart Houghton
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very readable and clear guide to the history and future of quantum computing. Gribbin is very good at explaining some mind-bending ideas in relatively plain English and the parts of the book dealing with the personalities involved (Turing, Feynman, Von Neuman, et al) are well researched. The whole thing rattles along much more easily than you might have hoped.
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Certainly not the easiest book to read for a complete novice in the field. Speaking as a student in the fields of Physics, Mathematics and Electronics however, it has been a blast, again not the easiest blast, to read this wonderful book : A one-of-a-kind summary to the art of computation from before Turing to the Quantum Theory era. I'd recommend this more as a compass to get introduced to the whole field. ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

This took me forever to get back to reading, because the first third was kind of boring. I just wish he'd cut to the goddamn chase at times. I didn't need biographies for every single scientist introduced!

Also, he explained some concepts really well, but some went way over my head as he didn't explain other concepts. It's as if he couldn't decide what his audience for this book was- beginners looking for a broad overview/introduction to Quantum Computing, or people with a physics-based backg
Seng Wee Wong
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Based on its book name, I expected more from the book. This book took half of its length to introduce the origin of classical computers and then quantum computers. Basically like a history textbook on computers. Well it is great for people with little or no background about the history of computers so you wont get lost when you reach the part about quantum computers.

I didn't know know the full details about how Alan Turing came up with first prototype of the classical computer hence I largely e
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, english
Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about quantum computers. No previous knowledge of conventional computers or quantum physics required to start. That all gets explained in the book. ;)
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent informal introduction to the history of quantum computing through the perspectives of various key players in quantum mechanics, computer science, computation, and quantum physics. John does a great job introducing the history behind computation, from Alan Turing to John von Neumann, from Richard Feynman to John Bell, from David Deutsch to Peter Shor... To truly appreciate where we are today with quantum computing, we must understand where we came from.

I was particularly blo
Dan Wilcox
Feb 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
I think this book provides the exact answer people are looking for when they ask "what is quantum computing" and "how does it work." While the first two-thirds of the book are very much just trying to keep your head above water in understanding all the concepts, the final part of the book neatly wraps up everything discussed previously in a coherent and sensible manner. How quantum computers actually work is something that only makes sense when all of the physics is explained thoroughly and tied ...more
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Spread over three parts, starting from the days of Alan Turing and Johnny von Neumann to the developments in theory of Quantum Mechanics right up to the developments in 21st century when the first humble quantum machines are coming to life, this book takes you on an unbelievable journey. At the heart of it, we start with the need of military to send coded messages and the opposing army to decode it, right up to the modern times when we need to develop machines that produce unbreakable codes to s ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it liked it
For me, I'd say this was a bit lower than a three -- I didn't look enough into what it was.

A lot of time is spent on histories of figures, but that was all stuff I've read before, and it's big overviews.

The time it spends on quantum computing is thus less and at a basic level.

So, if you aren't from a technical background, never heard of this really, and want to get some insight, it could be good.

It wasn't right for me, however.
Thomas Borgenfalk
Jan 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Good introduction to quantum computing but felt like the author brushed over some key topics but was happy to go into detail on random physicist X's childhood. For a more comprehensive introduction on quantum physics and its history, I highly recommend Adam Beckers "What is real". Still an enjoyable read and if you plan to read a few books on this topic, this might be a good start. ...more
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Great book detailing the evolution of classical computing to quantum computing. The author is an established scientist in the field and the writing is informed, technical, and detailed. To make the most of out this book, readers need to have a basic understanding (high school level) of particle physics, quantum physics, organic chemistry, and computer science; no math background is required.
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much realy good material in this book and excellent perspective on the multiple roots of modern computing. I put it down and almost didn't finish it when female contributers were refered to as the wife of... brilliant critical developments as appendages to male contribution.

I did finish it however and it's rewards are more than worth it's failings.
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
OK, I admit it, I couldn’t finish this one! My intellectual faculties were stretched to the limit by about page 150 and once we got into some of the really super-weird concepts of quantum mechanics, I realised that I was way, way out of my depth and had to bail out dozen or so pages later.
Ryan Knighton
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent. A must read. Very interesting, I read this and went on to reading other books similar. I work in IT and have extensive knowledge of the subject.. Thought provoking, tough going at times but persevere.
Steve Gross
Jun 21, 2019 rated it liked it
Useful introduction to Quantum Computing. Author must be a professor because he tells you what he's going to say, then says it, then tells you what he said. Also spends a lot of time irrelevantly talking about himself. Who cares where he went to school or lives? ...more
Charlie Keegan
Apr 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dense but really enjoyable. I liked learning the histories of the people behind the invention of quantum computing but sometimes the physics became too complicated for me to easily follow. I need to read more around this topic.
Alex Davis
May 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good introduction to quantum computing. However, the book spent the first third discussing the history of classical computing, which I found unnecessary to the foundations of quantum outside of a brief review of information theory.
Craig Penfold
Jun 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
Quantum mechanics and quantum computing are really hard topics to understand. John Gribbin does a good job of making the topic at least somewhat comprehensible.

A good entry to quantum physics for those interested.
May 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting but very heavy. Be prepared.
Jude Molloy
Jul 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Very interesting read. A lot of history on Computer Science and quantum mechanics as well as quantum computing, although, does not go into any real depth of the science/mathematics involved.
Sue Chant
I was doing OK until he tried to explain the Many Worlds Interpretation with reference to quantum computing - then my brain exploded. Will have to read his Multiverse book and try this one again.
Manuel Garcia
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Good one, divulgative, interesting, informative. A good point to start
Ian Liberman
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The first delectable and enlightening exposure I had to a John Gribbin book was “Time and Space”, which initiated an array of highly motivated cosmological projects in my grade five and six classrooms. John`s unique style of delivery and connection to students also motivated me to discover more about cosmology and read more books by the author himself. From this experience, John Gribbin and other scientists become a motivating factor in my learning quest of quantum physics and cosmology. I disc ...more
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Science Book Club: Computing with Quantum Cats: From Colossus to Qubits 1 9 Aug 01, 2017 09:18AM  

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John R. Gribbin is a British science writer, an astrophysicist, and a visiting fellow in astronomy at the University of Sussex. The topical range of his prolific writings includes quantum physics, biographies of famous scientists, human evolution, the origins of the universe, climate change and global warming. His also writes science fiction.

John Gribbin graduated with his bachelor's degree in phy

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“Curiously, though, we only have to look at one of the two slits for the outcome of the whole experiment to be affected, as if the electrons passing through the other slit also knew what we were doing. This is an example of quantum “non-locality,” which means that what happens in one location seems to affect events in another location instantly. Non-locality is a key feature of the central mystery of quantum mechanics, and a vital ingredient in quantum computers.” 0 likes
“the Germans, complacently sure it was uncrackable, were careless in its use.” 0 likes
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