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The Nature of Computation Hardcover – Jun 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1032 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199233217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199233212
  • Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 5.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 120,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


A creative, insightful, and accessible introduction to the theory of computing, written with a keen eye toward the frontiers of the field and a vivid enthusiasm for the subject matter. (Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University)

To put it bluntly: this book rocks! It's 900+ pages of awesome. It somehow manages to combine the fun of a popular book with the intellectual heft of a textbook, so much so that I don't know what to call it (but whatever the genre is, there needs to be more of it!). (Scott Aaronson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

Moore and Mertens guide the reader through the interesting field of computational complexity in a clear, broadly accessible and informal manner, while systematically explaining the main concepts and approaches in this area and the existing links to other disciplines. The book is comprehensive and can be easily used as a textbook, at both advanced undergraduate and postgraduate levels, but is equally useful for researchers in neighbouring disciplines, such as statistical physics [...]. Some of the material covered, such as approximability issues and Probabilistically Checkable Proofs is typically not presented in books of this type, and the authors do an excellent job in presenting them very clearly and convincingly. (David Saad, Aston University, Birmingham)

A treasure trove of ideas, concepts and information on algorithms and complexity theory. Serious material presented in the most delightful manner! (Vijay Vazirani, Georgia Instituute of Technology)

In a class by itself - in The Nature of Computation, Cristopher Moore and Stephan Mertens have produced one of the most successful attempts to capture the broad scope and intellectual depth of theoretical computer science as it is practiced today. The Nature of Computation is one of those books you can open to a random page and find something amazing, surprising and, often, very funny. (American Scientist)

About the Author

Cristopher Moore graduated from Northwestern University with honors in 1986, at the age of 18, with a B.A. in Mathematics, Physics, and Integrated Science. He received his Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University at the age of 23. After a postdoc at the Santa Fe Institute, he joined the faculty of the University of New Mexico, where he holds joint appointments in Computer Science and Physics and Astronomy. He has written over 90 papers, on topics ranging from undecidability in dynamical systems, to quantum computing, to phase transitions in NP-complete problems, to the analysis of social and biological networks.

Stephan Mertens got his Diploma in Physics in 1989, and his Ph.D. in Physics in 1991, both from Georg-August University Göttingen. He holds scholarships from the "Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes", Germany's most prestigious organisation sponsoring the academically gifted. After his Ph.D. he worked for three years in the software industry before he joined the faculty of Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg as a theoretical physicist. His research focuses on disordered systems in statistical mechanics, average case complexity of algorithms, and parallel computing.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By signifying nothing on 9 Dec 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

I wrote a review here in late 2012 praising the book's content (which is great) and criticising the layout / typography of the kindle version, which was truly dreadful. That kindle version has now been removed from sale and replaced by a 'print replica' version, which is simply beautiful. I'm now reading the book again, and enjoying it even more.

The only downside is that it can't be viewed on a regular kindle (needs iPad / computer), but that display probably couldn't do it justice anyway.
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1 of 6 people found the following review helpful By KDK on 17 Jan 2012
Format: Hardcover
This review actually concerns amazon.co.uk shipping rather than the book itself. It was so amazing that I would like to share my experience and appreciation.

I placed my order Friday night; delivery option - standard international. I was emailed on Saturday morning that the book has been shipped by amazon.co.uk. The book was on my desk in Turkey on Tuesday morning. Simply amazing! Well done!

The book itself is also amazing - unusual, deep and delightful. Everyone interested, teaching or working in computation theory, algorithm analysis and design, complexity theory, foundation of mathematics should have it. It provides a common, meaningful insight into all these fields as a whole. However, I only had a quick glimpse and am not ready to write serious enough comments.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful encyclopedic book 22 Jan 2012
By Josep Diaz - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful encyclopedic book, which covers a large range of topics from Theoretical Computer Science. The style favors intuition and clarity over technical details. Chapters 4 to 8 can be used as a textbook for an undergraduate complexity course. For computer science and mathematics students the book has the great advantage of examples from the physics world... the more advanced material can be easily used for graduate courses or seminars. For example, Chapters 12, 13 and 14 by themselves could be a perfect basic text for an advanced course in probabilistic methods in computer science and discrete mathematics. I hope future readers enjoy the book as much as I did.
(See longer review at Computer Science Reviews 5 (2011) 341.)
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Best theory of computation book ever! 23 Mar 2012
By M. Villagra - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
There are fantastic books all over theoretical computer science on the same subjects. But this one, I find it simply the best of all of them. Why? Because it explains what really computer science is about, which is computation as the object of study, and it does so in such a friendly manner and accessible to mathematicians, physicists and (of course) computer scientists of all levels. In the preface of the book explicitly says so, the objective of this book is to show why computational complexity is such a beautiful field with beautiful mathematics, without going too much deeper into the technicalities. Even though they omit the gruesome details, I felt that the understanding gained from reading the book was enough to look at the references and go directly to the papers. Thus, at the same time, this book presents a full review of all computational complexity theory. Also, the problems at the end of each chapter are very fun, and they make the reader gain a deeper understanding of the chapter and other subjects that were not covered. The notes section after each problem set are full of anecdotes and historical remarks that makes the reading experience even more wonderful.
great book, terrible binding 27 July 2014
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book with a fatal flaw.

First, the flaw: the binding is awful. It broke the very first time I opened the book, and it's broken multiple times since then. I've read it very carefully, never set it on a table upside down, etc etc. The binding is just terrible, and I have no idea why.

Everything else is awesome. The contents are great, and exposition is great, the problems are great, and the notes at the end of each chapter are great. The bibliography is extensive and terrific. Probably the single nicest thing about the book is that the authors' enthusiasm for the subject really shines through.

I have no idea if the kindle version is good or bad; there are enough formulae and diagrams that it might suffer. But if it's good, I would definitely recommend getting that over the print version with its bad binding.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Headmelting 23 Aug 2012
By Dan MacKinlay - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book starts with high-school mathematics and takes you all the way through the amazing architecture of mathematical problems themselves. It's encyclopaedia-length, but light and readable in style all the way through, sprinkled with liberal references to Lewis Carroll, Douglas Hofstadter and various other cult favourites of the literate mathnerd. That is, this exemplifies everything good about mathematical texts. Amazing.

For background, I am a mathematics major, but I had almost no exposure to computational complexity theory before starting this book apart from, say, the awareness that matrix inversion is approximately O(n^3)
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Fantastic introduction to computational complexity 20 Jan 2013
By Brian Malley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book did not prove to be quite what I had expected when I purchased it, but I have greatly enjoyed it anyway. This book is not really about the *nature* of computation, or even about computation at all, but rather about the structure of the problem-space encountered by computational systems. It is about the different kinds of computational problems. I have found it very interesting, and this book is written in such a way that even a newbie with limited mathematics can understand the key ideas. I highly recommend this introduction to anyone interested in natural science or technology.
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