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A passionate and personal account of the early days of quantum information and quantum computing, this unique book is a collection of more than 500 letters between the author and many of the founders of these intriguing fields. Christopher A. Fuchs is one of the most penetrating modern thinkers on the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics. This remarkable book follows his journey as he comes to grips with the quantum world. It contains correspondence with Charles Bennett, Gilles Brassard, Rolf Landauer, N. David Mermin, Michael Nielsen, Asher Peres, John Preskill, Abner Shimony, William Wootters, Anton Zeilinger, and many others. Filled with diary entries, anecdotes, historical selections, and research ideas, this book will fascinate physicists, philosophers, and historians of science.Read more
- A unique account of the early days of quantum information and computing from one of the most penetrating modern thinkers on the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics
- Includes over 500 letters between the author and many of the founders of quantum information and quantum computing on the mysteries of the quantum world
- Includes correspondence with Charles Bennett, Gilles Brassard, Rolf Landauer, N. David Mermin, Michael Nielsen, Asher Peres, John Preskill, Abner Shimony, William Wootters, Anton Zeilinger, and many others
Reviews & endorsements
"I'm delighted that what Chris Fuchs calls his "samizdat" - seven years' worth of fascinating correspondence about the foundations of quantum mechanics - has finally been published in book form. I read the samizdat as a beginning graduate student, and it changed my career. Some of the specific questions Chris ponders here - why, for example, does quantum mechanics involve complex numbers, rather than real numbers or quarternions? - have haunted me ever since. But more than that, reading Chris's letters made me feel, for the first time, like the great conversation of Bohr, Einstein, and other luminaries in the 1920s was still going on today; that their bewilderment over why God made the universe this way and not that hadn't completely given way to technicalities and jaded commentaries on commentaries. Just as importantly, Chris's writing style - brash, outrageous, hilarious, but never mean-spirited - gave me the courage to risk making a fool of myself in my own writing."
Scott Aaronson, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologySee more reviews
"The discovery in the 1990s that quantum computers could outperform their classical brethren led to the birth of an entirely new field of physics and computer science, quantum information science, whose breadth now spans thousands of researchers worldwide. As a consequence of the explosive growth of this new field, those working day in and day out with quantum information have obtained an unparalleled understanding of the quantum theory of nature. This understanding has, quite unexpectedly, also led to significant advances in penetrating a subject more often thought of as fodder for philosophy departments or late night bull sessions among physicists: the foundations of quantum theory.
Christopher A. Fuchs has been at the center of the firestorm that has been the rise of quantum information, and is the quintessential example of a new breed of quantum information inspired quantum foundations researchers. Out of a personal tragedy that destroyed his personal possessions Fuchs has assembled in this book the fragments of his life that were not incinerated during his loss - his email correspondence with friends and colleagues about quantum theory, along with the daily banter of a deep soul seeking to break a new path in the world of ideas. Anyone interested in grabbing a front seat to a new way to see quantum theory, as debated by the author and luminaries of quantum information and quantum foundations, will find this book hard to put down. As a bonus the book brims over with an overwhelming sense of joy and wonder at our quantum universe that, when combined with a wicked sense of humor, will no doubt make this collection of correspondences a classic document of the now blossoming age of quantum information science."
Dave Bacon, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington
"Full of humor, vivid characters, and intellectual drama, Chris Fuchs' letters are like Einstein's ideal play - “a delicious fragment of life, scintillating with various colors according to the position of the beholder” (though the book’s two guardian angels are Einstein's favorite antagonists, Bohr and Pauli!). A window into physics in the process of being untangled, this rich email tapestry is the fin de siècle testament to Heisenberg’s dictum that “science is rooted in conversations.
While references ricochet from William James to Bill Wootters; Bennett & Brassard to Flatt & Scruggs; Schrödinger to Sylvia Plath, the reader starts in the middle, flips back and forth, writes in the margins and gaps - encouraged not to passively absorb, but to engage, struggle, learn, delight.
My much-annotated and coffee-stained copy sits not on my bookshelf but on my desk, and I still stumble over new delights."
Louisa Gilder, author of The Age of Entanglement
"Nobody today writing about quantum mechanics combines poetry and analysis to better effect than Chris Fuchs … The death of letters as a high literary form brought about by the telephone turns out to have been only a lengthy coma – a 20th century aberration … The thought-provoking pages that follow, which can either be read like a Nabokov novel, or dipped into from time to time, like a collection of poems or short stories, gloriously provide a 21st century demonstration that the art form is again alive and well - and also, of course, that there remain profound questions to ask and to strive to answer about the real meaning of quantum mechanics."
N. David Mermin, Cornell University (from the Foreword)
"From the beginning, quantum information promised to transform not only our technologies for communication and computation but also the received interpretation of quantum theory itself. In this book you can watch this transformation taking place in the mind of one of the pioneers of the field. No-one has done more to articulate the information-theoretical interpretation of quantum theory than Fuchs. I am unsure if this transformation will ultimately take us to a new understanding of the quantum but, as this book demonstrates, the journey is at least as important as the destination. For both physicists and philosophers alike, this book will entertain, inform and almost certainly challenge."
Gerard Milburn, Director, Australian Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, The University of Queensland
"In this marvelous collection of letters we get to watch over Chris Fuchs's shoulder as he wrestles with one of the great open scientific problems of today: how should we understand quantum theory? This book reminds us forcefully just how important that problem is, and inspires and provokes us to think more deeply about the problem. It's also a pleasure to read, personable, funny, and with a stimulating turn of phrase on nearly every page."
Michael Nielsen, co-author of Quantum Computation and Quantum Information
"Scientists communicate their ideas in a variety of ways, through published articles, technical seminars, classroom lectures, and textbooks. Most of all we talk to one another, and increasingly we convey and solidify our thoughts in emails to our colleagues. But very few of us use email as skilfully, prolifically, passionately, or fruitfully as Chris Fuchs. Anyone fascinated by the mysteries of the quantum world is sure to be enlightened and entertained by this extraordinary collection, in which Chris wrestles with some of the deepest questions about how we describe Nature. You have never read a physics book like this one."
John Preskill, Richard P. Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics, California Institute of Technology
"...there is much more in this book, which turns out to be a real page turner. It invites jumping back and forth. And back again. The book offers a personal account of the very first years of a field that is still in its infancy today, but many deep ideas and concepts come unfiltered and only marginally annotated. All the more the book offers food for thought, and plenty of leads for further reading."
ANDREAS TRABESINGER, Nature Physics
"The one sure thing that can be said about this book is that it is unique. There is really nothing like it out there... you continually come across passages that make you stop and say "Hmm, let me think about that!" And you put the book down and are soon lost in thought. What could possibly be better?"
Daniel M. Greenberger, American Journal of Physics
"... the book is indeed a gem. Those interested in quantum foundations will find the book an inexhaustible source of amusing quotes and food for thought, even when—or especially when!—they disagree with the views expressed. Anyone under the impression that all questions about the foundations of quantum theory were settled long ago ought to take this unique opportunity to peek into the personal communications of some of the leaders in the field. They will find evidence that the debates about the fundamental nature of our world are very much alive—even if few have the courage, as Fuchs does, to bring them out in the open."
Eric Cavalcanti, American Scientist
"The reader interested in quantum foundations will surely find this book an inexhaustible source of amusing quotes and food for thought, even when - or especially when! - hey may disagree with its views. And for anyone who might have been under the impression that all questions about the foundations of quantum theory have been settled long ago ought to take this unique opportunity to peek into the personal communications of some of the leaders in the field and find evidence that those foundational debates are very much alive."
Eric Cavalcanti, Quantum Information Processes
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- Date Published: February 2011
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9780521199261
- length: 600 pages
- dimensions: 254 x 178 x 33 mm
- weight: 1.3kg
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. Letters to David Baker
2. Letters to Howard Baker
3. Letters to Howard Barnum
4. Letters to Paul Benioff
5. Letters to Charlie Bennett
6. Letters to Herb Bernstein
7. Letters to Doug Bilodeau
8. Letters to Gilles Brassard
9. Letters to Jeffrey Bub
10. Letters to Carlton Caves
11. Letters to Greg Comer
12. Letters to Charles Enz
13. Letters to Henry Folse
14. Letters to Bob Griffiths
15. Letters to Adrian Kent
16. Letters to Rolf Landauer
17. Letters to Hideo Mabuchi
18. Letters to David Mermin
19. Letters to David Meyer
20. Letters to Jeff Nicholson
21. Letters to Michael Nielsen
22. Letters to Asher Peres
23. Diary of a carefully worded paper: more letters to Asher Peres
24. Letters to John Preskill
25. Letters to Joseph Renes
26. Letters to Mary Beth Ruskai
27. Letters to Rüdiger Schack
28. Letters to Robert Schumann
29. Letters to Abner Shimony
30. Letters to Jon Waskan
31. Letters to Bill Wootters
32. Letters to Anton Zeilinger
33. Other letters
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