Turing's Cathedral

Turing's Cathedral

Author: George Dyson

Publisher: Pantheon

Published: 2012

Total Pages: 466

ISBN-13: 0375422773

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Documents the innovations of a group of eccentric geniuses who developed computer code in the mid-20th century as part of mathematician Alan Turin's theoretical universal machine idea, exploring how their ideas led to such developments as digital television, modern genetics and the hydrogen bomb.


Turing's Cathedral

Turing's Cathedral

Author: George Dyson

Publisher: Pantheon

Published: 2012-03-06

Total Pages: 466

ISBN-13: 0307907066

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“It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same. Using five kilobytes of memory (the amount allocated to displaying the cursor on a computer desktop of today), they achieved unprecedented success in both weather prediction and nuclear weapons design, while tackling, in their spare time, problems ranging from the evolution of viruses to the evolution of stars. Dyson’s account, both historic and prophetic, sheds important new light on how the digital universe exploded in the aftermath of World War II. The proliferation of both codes and machines was paralleled by two historic developments: the decoding of self-replicating sequences in biology and the invention of the hydrogen bomb. It’s no coincidence that the most destructive and the most constructive of human inventions appeared at exactly the same time. How did code take over the world? In retracing how Alan Turing’s one-dimensional model became John von Neumann’s two-dimensional implementation, Turing’s Cathedral offers a series of provocative suggestions as to where the digital universe, now fully three-dimensional, may be heading next.


Turing's Cathedral

Turing's Cathedral

Author: George Dyson

Publisher: Penguin UK

Published: 2012-03-01

Total Pages: 432

ISBN-13: 0718194500

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How did computers take over the world? In late 1945, a small group of brilliant engineers and mathematicians gathered at the newly created Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Their ostensible goal was to build a computer which would be instrumental in the US government's race to create a hydrogen bomb. The mathematicians themselves, however, saw their project as the realization of Alan Turing's theoretical 'universal machine.' In Turing's Cathedral, George Dyson vividly re-creates the intense experimentation, incredible mathematical insight and pure creative genius that led to the dawn of the digital universe, uncovering a wealth of new material to bring a human story of extraordinary men and women and their ideas to life. From the lowliest iPhone app to Google's sprawling metazoan codes, we now live in a world of self-replicating numbers and self-reproducing machines whose origins go back to a 5-kilobyte matrix that still holds clues as to what may lie ahead.


Analogia

Analogia

Author: George Dyson

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Published: 2020-08-18

Total Pages: 269

ISBN-13: 0374710074

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Named one of WIRED’s "The Best Pop Culture That Got Us Through 2020" In Analogia, technology historian George Dyson presents a startling look back at the analog age and life before the digital revolution—and an unsettling vision of what comes next. In 1716, the philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz spent eight days taking the cure with Peter the Great at Bad Pyrmont in Saxony, trying to persuade the tsar to launch a voyage of discovery from Russia to America and to adopt digital computing as the foundation for a remaking of life on earth. In two classic books, Darwin Among the Machines and Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson chronicled the realization of the second of Leibniz’s visions. In Analogia, his pathbreaking new book, he brings the story full circle, starting with the Russian American expedition of 1741 and ending with the beyond-digital revolution that will complete the transformation of the world. Dyson enlists a startling cast of characters, from the time of Catherine the Great to the age of machine intelligence, and draws heavily on his own experiences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and onward to the rain forest of the Northwest Coast. We are, Dyson reveals, entering a new epoch in human history, one driven by a generation of machines whose powers are no longer under programmable control. Includes black-and-white illustrations


Project Orion

Project Orion

Author: George Dyson

Publisher: Macmillan

Published: 2003-04

Total Pages: 372

ISBN-13: 9780805072846

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"Project Orion describes one of the most awesome 'might have beens' (and may yet bes!) of the space age. This is essential reading for anyone interested in government bureaucracies and the military industrial complex." -Sir Arthur C. Clarke


John von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More

John von Neumann: The Scientific Genius Who Pioneered the Modern Computer, Game Theory, Nuclear Deterrence, and Much More

Author: Norman Macrae

Publisher: Plunkett Lake Press

Published: 2019-07-31

Total Pages: 280

ISBN-13:

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John von Neumann was a Jewish refugee from Hungary — considered a “genius” like fellow Hungarians Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller — who played key roles developing the A-bomb at Los Alamos during World War II. As a mathematician at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (where Einstein was also a professor), von Neumann was a leader in the development of early computers. Later, he developed the new field of game theory in economics and became a top nuclear arms policy adviser to the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. “I always thought [von Neumann’s] brain indicated that he belonged to a new species, an evolution beyond man. Macrae shows us in a lively way how this brain was nurtured and then left its great imprint on the world.” — Hans A. Bethe, Cornell University “The book makes for utterly captivating reading. Von Neumann was, of course, one of this century’s geniuses, and it is surprising that we have had to wait so long... for a fully fleshed and sympathetic biography of the man. But now, happily, we have one. Macrae nicely delineates the cultural, familial, and educational environment from which von Neumann sprang and sketches the mathematical and scientific environment in which he flourished. It’s no small task to render a genius like von Neumann in ordinary language, yet Macrae manages the trick, providing more than a glimpse of what von Neumann accomplished intellectually without expecting the reader to have a Ph.D. in mathematics. Beyond that, he captures von Neumann’s qualities of temperament, mind, and personality, including his effortless wit and humor. And [Macrae] frames and accounts for von Neumann’s politics in ways that even critics of them, among whom I include myself, will find provocative and illuminating.” — Daniel J. Kevles, California Institute of Technology “A lively portrait of the hugely consequential nonmathematician-physicist-et al., whose genius has left an enduring impress on our thought, technology, society, and culture. A double salute to Steve White, who started this grand book designed for us avid, nonmathematical readers, and to Norman Macrae, who brought it to a triumphant conclusion.” — Robert K. Merton, Columbia University “The first full-scale biography of this polymath, who was born Jewish in Hungary in 1903 and died Roman Catholic in the United States at the age of 53. And Mr. Macrae has some great stories to tell... Mr. Macrae’s biography has rescued a lot of good science gossip from probable extinction, and has introduced many of us to the life story of a man we ought to know better.” — Ed Regis, The New York Times “A nice and fascinating picture of a genius who was active in so many domains.” —Zentralblatt MATH “Biographer Macrae takes a ‘viewspaperman’ approach which stresses the context and personalities associated with von Neumann’s remarkable life, rather than attempting to give a detailed scholarly analysis of von Neumann’s papers. The resulting book is a highly entertaining account that is difficult to put down.” — Journal of Mathematical Psychology “A full and intimate biography of ‘the man who consciously and deliberately set mankind moving along the road that led us into the Age of Computers.’” — Freeman Dyson, Princeton, NJ “It is good to have a biography of one of the most important mathematicians of the twentieth century, even if it is a biography that focuses much more on the man than on the mathematics.” — Fernando Q. Gouvêa, Mathematical Association of America “Based on much research, his own and that of others (especially of Stephen White), Macrae has written a valuable biography of this remarkable genius of our century, without the opacity of technical (mathematical) dimensions that are part of the hero’s intellectual contributions to humanity. Interesting, informative, illuminating, and insightful.” — Choice Review “Macrae paints a highly readable, humanizing portrait of a man whose legacy still influences and shapes modern science and knowledge.” — Resonance, Journal of Science Education “In this affectionate, humanizing biography, former Economist editor Macrae limns a prescient pragmatist who actively fought against fascism and who advocated a policy of nuclear deterrence because he foresaw that Stalin’s Soviet Union would rapidly acquire the bomb and develop rocketry... Macrae makes [von Neumann’s] contributions accessible to the lay reader, and also discusses von Neumann’s relationships with two long-suffering wives, his political differences with Einstein and the cancer that killed him.” — Publishers Weekly “Macrae’s life of the great mathematician shows dramatically what proper care and feeding can do for an unusually capacious mind.” — John Wilkes, Los Angeles Times


A People’s History of Computing in the United States

A People’s History of Computing in the United States

Author: Joy Lisi Rankin

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Published: 2018-10-22

Total Pages: 290

ISBN-13: 0674988515

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Does Silicon Valley deserve all the credit for digital creativity and social media? Joy Rankin questions this triumphalism by revisiting a pre-PC time when schools were not the last stop for mature consumer technologies but flourishing sites of innovative collaboration—when users taught computers and visionaries dreamed of networked access for all.


John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing

John von Neumann and the Origins of Modern Computing

Author: William Aspray

Publisher: MIT Press

Published: 1990-12-07

Total Pages: 397

ISBN-13: 0262518856

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William Aspray provides the first broad and detailed account of von Neumann's many different contributions to computing. John von Neumann (1903-1957) was unquestionably one of the most brilliant scientists of the twentieth century. He made major contributions to quantum mechanics and mathematical physics and in 1943 began a new and all-too-short career in computer science. William Aspray provides the first broad and detailed account of von Neumann's many different contributions to computing. These, Aspray reveals, extended far beyond his well-known work in the design and construction of computer systems to include important scientific applications, the revival of numerical analysis, and the creation of a theory of computing.Aspray points out that from the beginning von Neumann took a wider and more theoretical view than other computer pioneers. In the now famous EDVAC report of 1945, von Neumann clearly stated the idea of a stored program that resides in the computer's memory along with the data it was to operate on. This stored program computer was described in terms of idealized neurons, highlighting the analogy between the digital computer and the human brain. Aspray describes von Neumann's development during the next decade, and almost entirely alone, of a theory of complicated information processing systems, or automata, and the introduction of themes such as learning, reliability of systems with unreliable components, self-replication, and the importance of memory and storage capacity in biological nervous systems; many of these themes remain at the heart of current investigations in parallel or neurocomputing.Aspray allows the record to speak for itself. He unravels an intricate sequence of stories generated by von Neumann's work and brings into focus the interplay of personalities centered about von Neumann. He documents the complex interactions of science, the military, and business and shows how progress in applied mathematics was intertwined with that in computers. William Aspray is Director of the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering at The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.


The Starship and the Canoe

The Starship and the Canoe

Author: Kenneth Brower

Publisher: Mountaineers Books

Published: 2020-02-18

Total Pages: 316

ISBN-13: 168051279X

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“The Starship and the Canoe is neither a wilderness survival manual nor a book of blueprints. It is another of those rare books impossible to define: the kind that seeks you in time. And you will know it, live it, and consult it thereafter simply by name.” --Chicago Sun-Times “Brower’s superbly written book clutches at one’s imagination.” --Publishers Weekly “In the tradition of Carl Sagan and John McPhee, a bracing cerebral voyage past intergalactic hoopla and backwoods retreats.” --Kirkus Reviews Originally published in 1978, The Starship and the Canoe is the remarkable story of a father and son: Freeman Dyson is a world-renowned astrophysicist who dreams of exploring the heavens and has designed a spaceship to take him there. His son George, a brilliant high school dropout, lives in a treehouse and is designing a giant kayak to explore the icy coastal wilderness of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Author Kenneth Brower describes with stunning impact their lives and their visions of the world. It is a timeless tale framed by modern science, adventure, family, and the natural world.


Religion for Atheists

Religion for Atheists

Author: Alain De Botton

Publisher: Vintage

Published: 2012-03-06

Total Pages: 297

ISBN-13: 0307907104

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What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense? The long-running and often boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved forward by Alain de Botton’s inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are entirely false—but that it still has some very important things to teach the secular world. Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it—because the world’s religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we look to religion for insights into how to, among other concerns, build a sense of community, make our relationships last, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, inspire travel and reconnect with the natural world. For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing some peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas. At last, in Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.