May 30, 2015
John Gribbin — Computing with Quantum
Cats: from Colossus to Qubits — Prometheus Books, 2014,
295 pp. ISBN 978-1-61614-921-5
(Buy at Amazon)
The book presents the genesis of the various ideas that may lead, one day, to a practical quantum computer. Gribbin takes a well-documented historico-biographical approach to the topic, while avoiding getting too deep into the science part of the story. On great many occasions, he cuts short an interesting avenue with a “but that’s another story”, which I find most frustrating. Those are the good parts I want to know about!
Despite all this, the book is still worth reading. It will expose you clearly (albeit summarily) the various ideas behind quantum computing, and is a good starting point if you’re interested in quantum computing, as the book also ends with a bibliography on the topic.
The quantum cats of the title refers, of course, to the famous Schrödinger cat gedankenexperiment, but the term also to macroscopic objects exhibiting quantum behavior.
May 16, 2015
Frank S. Russell — Information Gathering in Classical Greece — University of Michigan Press, 2002, 268 pp. ISBN 0-472-11064
(Buy at Amazon.com)
While Amazon’s blurb speaks of cloak-and-dagger and other spy clichés, this book has little to do with a thrilling espionage novel, and is as far from an ‘easy read’ as anything can be. Well documented, Russell’s book brings us back to classical times and tells us about war, politics, oracles, and “spies” (for lack of a better term) and a lot about the Greek mind. We learn, for example, that the Greeks did not consider intelligence gathering in the same way we would today with professional spies and information-gathering network, à la NSA, but rather in a rather ad hoc way.
The narrative is really fascinating but the form itself remains difficult. First, there are quite many ancient greek words to remember (will you remember what are a proxenoi and a presbeutai in two days?), and very often we find more than half of the pages being footnotes. This excruciatingly well documented book is still a must-read for one interested in classical Greece as well as one interested in the history of espionage.