Short works

Books : reviews

Seth Lloyd.
Programming the Universe: a quantum computer scientist takes on the cosmos.
Vintage. 2005

rating : 2.5 : great stuff
review : 23 October 2007

Seth Lloyd applies quantum information theory to understanding the universe. This isn't yet another one of those "the very small (quantum physics) meets the very big (cosmology)" tales: it instead takes a computational, or information theoretic, view of the laws of nature, and of the instantiation of those laws that is our universe. He manages to give an inkling of what it might mean for the universe to be "computing itself", and what taking this view seriously means in terms of limitations on what the universe (including its component parts, such as us) can do. And he weaves into this a series of interesting anecdotes about his own career as a "quantum computer scientist".

For the most part, his descriptions are quite clear, although there are a few places that seem a bit rushed and in need of a polish. Despite that, this is a profound and important book. And such a mind-bendingly fascinating read that, when I accidentally, and irritatingly, left my original copy on an aeroplane coming back from a conference, I immediately went to Amazon and clicked for a replacement.