Turing's Cathedral

Turing's Cathedral

The Origins of the Digital Universe

Book - 2012
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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.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2012
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780375422775
Branch Call Number: 004.09 DYS
Characteristics: xxii, 401 p. : ill., ports. ; 25 cm.


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Jun 22, 2016

While it may be called Turing's Cathedral, it's really Von Neumann's book. It can be dry and drawn-out, but folks who are into computer stuff will find the mix of human and machine tales enjoyable and enlightening. I did.

May 23, 2013

Despite the title, only obliquely related to British mathematician and founder of the field of computer science, Alan Turing. Instead the focus is on von Neumann's development of early tube computers and their use in the design of thermo-nuclear weapons. If you'd like a sense of what it was like during those heady days at Princeton with von Neumann, Kurt Goedel, and Albert Einstein as faculty members, this is a good read. My only complaint is the author tends to lose focus and wander, rather than staying to the important themes and their resolution. In an apparent attempt to be provide the ultimate comprehensive biography, he gets bogged down in unimportant details, for example von Neumann's traffic tickets. This tends to make the going a little scatter-shot and tedius at times.

mikewerth Dec 27, 2011

spelling mistake in listing - digial should be digital


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May 23, 2013

A semi-biography of Hungarian scientist John von Neumann, who left Nazi Europe in the 1930's, and landed at the Princeton Advanced Study Institute, along with Kurt Goedel and Albert Einstein. In particular, Von Neumann's leadership in the design of the earliest electronic tube computers based on the Turing stored-program architecture, and then how these computers were used to design the first thermo- nuclear weapons

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