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Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer

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The race is on to construct the first quantum code breaker, as the winner will hold the key to the entire Internet. From international, multibillion-dollar financial transactions to top-secret government communications, all would be vulnerable to the secret-code-breaking ability of the quantum computer. Written by a renowned quantum physicist closely involved in the U.S. go The race is on to construct the first quantum code breaker, as the winner will hold the key to the entire Internet. From international, multibillion-dollar financial transactions to top-secret government communications, all would be vulnerable to the secret-code-breaking ability of the quantum computer. Written by a renowned quantum physicist closely involved in the U.S. government s development of quantum information science, Schrodinger s Killer App: Race to Build the World s First Quantum Computer presents an inside look at the government s quest to build a quantum computer capable of solving complex mathematical problems and hacking the public-key encryption codes used to secure the Internet. The "killer application" refers to Shor s quantum factoring algorithm, which would unveil the encrypted communications of the entire Internet if a quantum computer could be built to run the algorithm. Schrodinger s notion of quantum entanglement and his infamous cat is at the heart of it all. The book develops the concept of entanglement in the historical context of Einstein s 30-year battle with the physics community over the true meaning of quantum theory. It discusses the remedy to the threat posed by the quantum code breaker: quantum cryptography, which is unbreakable even by the quantum computer. The author also covers applications to other important areas, such as quantum physics simulators, synchronized clocks, quantum search engines, quantum sensors, and imaging devices. In addition, he takes readers on a philosophical journey that considers the future ramifications of quantum technologies. Interspersed with amusing and personal anecdotes, this book presents quantum computing and the closely connected foundations of quantum mechanics in an engaging manner accessible to non-specialists. Requiring no formal training in physics or advanced mathematics, it explains difficult topics, including quantum entanglement, Schrodinger s cat, Bell s inequality, and quantum computational complexity, using simple analogies."


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The race is on to construct the first quantum code breaker, as the winner will hold the key to the entire Internet. From international, multibillion-dollar financial transactions to top-secret government communications, all would be vulnerable to the secret-code-breaking ability of the quantum computer. Written by a renowned quantum physicist closely involved in the U.S. go The race is on to construct the first quantum code breaker, as the winner will hold the key to the entire Internet. From international, multibillion-dollar financial transactions to top-secret government communications, all would be vulnerable to the secret-code-breaking ability of the quantum computer. Written by a renowned quantum physicist closely involved in the U.S. government s development of quantum information science, Schrodinger s Killer App: Race to Build the World s First Quantum Computer presents an inside look at the government s quest to build a quantum computer capable of solving complex mathematical problems and hacking the public-key encryption codes used to secure the Internet. The "killer application" refers to Shor s quantum factoring algorithm, which would unveil the encrypted communications of the entire Internet if a quantum computer could be built to run the algorithm. Schrodinger s notion of quantum entanglement and his infamous cat is at the heart of it all. The book develops the concept of entanglement in the historical context of Einstein s 30-year battle with the physics community over the true meaning of quantum theory. It discusses the remedy to the threat posed by the quantum code breaker: quantum cryptography, which is unbreakable even by the quantum computer. The author also covers applications to other important areas, such as quantum physics simulators, synchronized clocks, quantum search engines, quantum sensors, and imaging devices. In addition, he takes readers on a philosophical journey that considers the future ramifications of quantum technologies. Interspersed with amusing and personal anecdotes, this book presents quantum computing and the closely connected foundations of quantum mechanics in an engaging manner accessible to non-specialists. Requiring no formal training in physics or advanced mathematics, it explains difficult topics, including quantum entanglement, Schrodinger s cat, Bell s inequality, and quantum computational complexity, using simple analogies."

51 review for Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Hal

    Recommended by SMBC

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Adelman

    Although the title suggests that the book is about quantum computers, it is in many ways more about quantum technology - many applications of quantum theory from improved measurement systems to clocks, etc. It also talks about what quantum technology can do and what it can't - and most importantly, how it works. The writing style was clear and Dowling's sense of humor shone through, making it much more readable than it would have been in the hands of a less capable writer. The beginning of the bo Although the title suggests that the book is about quantum computers, it is in many ways more about quantum technology - many applications of quantum theory from improved measurement systems to clocks, etc. It also talks about what quantum technology can do and what it can't - and most importantly, how it works. The writing style was clear and Dowling's sense of humor shone through, making it much more readable than it would have been in the hands of a less capable writer. The beginning of the book lays a foundation of quantum theory, and it may be the best overview of quantum theory I've read. (Note: I'm not a physicist - just an interested layperson.) I've read about entanglement and Schrodinger's Cat (and the Copenhagen interpretation), etc. but this book clarified a lot of the points I was fuzzy on and tied everything together. Because the government's initial interest in quantum computing concerned code breaking, the books covered some of the basics of cryptography. (As it turns out, the basics were all that were needed, since cryptography may not be the most interesting application of quantum computing after all.) However, as I read this part, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn't have understood the section as well as I did if I didn't already have some knowledge (admittedly, layperson-level) of cryptography. I was fortunate to have read Simon Singh's excellent book, "The Code Book", a few years ago, so when Dowling mentions that a one-time pad cipher is unbreakable and when he describes briefly how public keys work, I didn't just have to take his word for it. (He's right of course. He just chose not to go into detail as that was not the point of the book.) For someone like me - a non-scientist who reads a lot of science and math books targeted at a lay audience - there were a few sections that were particularly dense. In particular, the chapter 4 ("You're in the Army Now") goes through multiple possible models for constructing a quantum computer. Dowling summarized each proposal, but in my opinion never got a good balance between giving an overview that laypeople will understand and keeping each description relatively short (since, in the end, it wasn't really necessary to understand all of them, since many of them wouldn't work anyway.) It might have been better to put all of these in an appendix and focus in depth on only the 2-3 most promising approaches. I expect that some people might just give up on the book during this 12-page stretch that just felt like it was going on too long. I should mention that the book could have benefited from one final editing pass. There were typos here and there, and a few cases where an endnote told an anecdote and the very next paragraph in the text told the same anecdote. (I'm sure just a symptom of Dowling's ambivalence between whether he thought it was significant enough to include in the main text or not.) None of these issues really detract from the book, though. A final minor gripe is the extensive use of endnotes. To me, endnotes are useful for listing sources or suggestions for further reading. They should not be used for clarifications, anecdotes, jokes, etc. That's what footnotes are for! It really bugs me when I need 2 bookmarks for one book - one for the main text and another for the endnotes - and I constantly need to flip back and forth. It was great when I got within about 4-5 pages from the end and read the last endnote. I was able to remove the second bookmark and just read to the end like a normal book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    This book is a comprehensive lay survey of quantum mechanics, its uses, and the state of building quantum computing devices. The three elements that make up this book are a survey of quantum mechanics, a survey of attempts to built quantum computers, and a memoir of the author's time in the field. I followed maybe 50% of the first, 20% of the second, and 90% of the third. The first effort of the book is to convey that quantum mechanics merely seems strange to our common intuitions and that there' This book is a comprehensive lay survey of quantum mechanics, its uses, and the state of building quantum computing devices. The three elements that make up this book are a survey of quantum mechanics, a survey of attempts to built quantum computers, and a memoir of the author's time in the field. I followed maybe 50% of the first, 20% of the second, and 90% of the third. The first effort of the book is to convey that quantum mechanics merely seems strange to our common intuitions and that there's no particular reason that it would need to be more sensical. More importantly, that even though quantum mechanics doesn't match human intuition, it's ridiculously useful and is the most accurate model of reality we've ever created. Much effort was spent in the 20th century trying to preserve classical mechanics or something that was at least local (interactions occur through interactions at liminal speeds), casual (the arrow of casuality is obvious and preserved) and deterministic (actions will occur the same way each time) vs something that is provably (to the extent that we have loophole free Bell experiments) none of those. The author then spends a fair amount of time discussing things that use classical interference for a speedup that is significant (quadratic or square root) vs a quantum speed up which would be much much faster (exponential). This becomes important in later sections where the author discusses new devices that purport to be quantum but are simply classical interference devices. The next large section (several hundred pages), concerns devices purported to be quantum computers and whether or not they are. In most cases the answer is "no" and that most people have great difficulty determining if a device is in fact quantum. This is important as a lot of people are dumping a lot of money into quantum computing devices and they may not actually be getting one. This section also discusses cases where quantum technologies allow one to surpassing what were considered to be classical barriers. This includes optical etching beyond the defraction limit, unbreakable codes, and networks capable of intrusion detection. The author also comments a bit on the theoretical construct represented by quantum mechanics in the form of Hilbert space. There's also the interesting case of a quantum Turing test which an entity in Hilbert space could use to determine if another entity were in Hilbert space by asking it to factor a million digit number in under a second. Normally my book reviews aren't simply a summary of the book's content but this one is large enough and multi-faceted enough that I think it's required. If you're comfortable doing some re-reading and letting things sit a bit, it's not unreasonable that a reader could walk away with a strong appreciation and maybe a medium understanding of steps leading up to a quantum computer. Finally, a shout out to CRC Press for being the publisher. More than just the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, amirite?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Amazing book for the layperson by someone who is clearly a well-known and knowledgeable person in the field, Jonathan P. Dowling. I will absolutely have to read it again however, and note to anyone who reads this book, pay attention to those quantum gates, the CAT, the ENT, and the RAT as they are referred to heavily thereafter. I think any layperson will get a lot out of this book even if they have to glaze over at the myriad of characters involved and some of the engineering techniques that ar Amazing book for the layperson by someone who is clearly a well-known and knowledgeable person in the field, Jonathan P. Dowling. I will absolutely have to read it again however, and note to anyone who reads this book, pay attention to those quantum gates, the CAT, the ENT, and the RAT as they are referred to heavily thereafter. I think any layperson will get a lot out of this book even if they have to glaze over at the myriad of characters involved and some of the engineering techniques that are hard to understand, (for the layperson). I believe I found this book recommended by Zach Weinersmith who writes "Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal" and has his own book about cutting edge tech, "Soonish." It's got some humor in it, but quantum mechanics is hard to understand, but I'll take another stab at it down the road. Also, there is an interesting criticism of Roger Penrose toward the end of the book, regarding the "Consciousness is weird, quantum physics is weird, therefore they're both related" kind of arguments made in "The Emperor's New Mind." John Searle's Strong AI hypothesis as related in this book is not something I'm as on board with as the author is, but I guess until proven otherwise, it'll have to do.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Darnell

    It can get pretty technical, but I found it a readable explanation of quantum computing and many related technologies. Oddly informal or explicitly biased at times, though, given the tone of many parts.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mary Soon Lee

    In this 2013 book, Dowling sets out to describe the history of quantum computing in the USA, drawing on his own experiences and expertise. Before launching into the meat of his topic, he discusses the foundations of quantum theory. And afterward, towards the end, he speculates about the future of quantum technologies in general and quantum computing in particular. The topic is of considerable interest to me, but I found the book itself underwhelming. While the start was fairly good, I liked this In this 2013 book, Dowling sets out to describe the history of quantum computing in the USA, drawing on his own experiences and expertise. Before launching into the meat of his topic, he discusses the foundations of quantum theory. And afterward, towards the end, he speculates about the future of quantum technologies in general and quantum computing in particular. The topic is of considerable interest to me, but I found the book itself underwhelming. While the start was fairly good, I liked this book less as it went on. At times, the historical details felt too close to lists of names, places, and meetings. At times, the prose felt very repetitive, chunks of explanation being repeated a page or two later with little change. At times, there appeared to be surprisingly sloppy errors (unless I seriously misunderstood the text): for instance, on page 16 there is a table which is meant to show times that are 6 hours apart, but 2 of the 10 rows are 5 hours apart instead of 6 hours. Some of the later sloppy errors could easily cause confusion. On the plus side, I am still interested in the topic, and I did glean more about it from the book, including a better understanding of Shor's algorithm, an algorithm which could break public-key encryption if a practical quantum computer were built. I also enjoyed several of Dowling's spirited rants, such as his diatribe in chapter 6 against an egregious instance of pseudoscience linking parapsychology to quantum theory. I'm rounding this up to 3 out of 5 stars since the subject is fascinating. However, among the set of all the non-fiction books I've finished (rather than abandoning partway through), this is among the weaker entries. That said, I see that others appear to have liked it better than I did, so I may just be the wrong reader for this. About my reviews: I try to review every book I read, including those that I don't end up enjoying. The reviews are not scholarly, but just indicate my reaction as a reader, reading being my addiction. I am miserly with 5-star reviews; 4 stars means I liked a book very much; 3 stars means I liked it; 2 stars means I didn't like it (though often the 2-star books are very popular with other readers and/or are by authors whose other work I've loved).

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Not an easy read, but a very interesting overview. Could’ve been a shorter book if you’re only interested in the science. Lots of coverage on the human side of quantum computing history.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Arthur Sperry

    Very interesting book with a lot of good detail and info on the possibilities of a practical Quantum Computer, as well as the challenges in building one.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Lum

    Argh. I'd written a couple paragraphs of review and then accidentally trashed it. Can't be bothered to retype it now! Argh. I'd written a couple paragraphs of review and then accidentally trashed it. Can't be bothered to retype it now!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    004.1 D747 2013

  11. 5 out of 5

    Matt

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ron Stieger

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chris Maughan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alfredo

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nadia

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ray

  17. 4 out of 5

    Zen Zoo

  18. 4 out of 5

    Subhajit Das

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leon Brown

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stefanoc

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dwayne

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jovany Agathe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Yusuf Mansur

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    Only got half through before I had to return it

  26. 5 out of 5

    Arnab Chaudhuri

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Hope

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthieu

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  30. 5 out of 5

    Maksim

  31. 4 out of 5

    Pt Books

  32. 5 out of 5

    Leonardo Duenas-Osorio

  33. 5 out of 5

    Weiran

  34. 4 out of 5

    Lars Johnson

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  36. 4 out of 5

    reaper

  37. 5 out of 5

    Derek

  38. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

  39. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  40. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

  41. 4 out of 5

    Chaim Rube

  42. 5 out of 5

    Ivan

  43. 4 out of 5

    Jake Anderson

  44. 4 out of 5

    Rob Hunter

  45. 5 out of 5

    Ian Young

  46. 4 out of 5

    A-Jay

  47. 4 out of 5

    Damana Madden

  48. 5 out of 5

    Mouni Reddy

  49. 5 out of 5

    Johannes Marks

  50. 4 out of 5

    Qarlo

  51. 4 out of 5

    Ben Jack

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