|Prof: Jonathan Bain
|Office: RH 201A
||RH602 Tu/Thurs 12:30 - 1:50
|Off. hrs: Weds 1:00 - 2:00 or by
What is entropy and how does it
relate to the concept of information? Does the computational
power of a computer depend on the nature of spacetime? How would
a quantum computer differ from a classical computer? Is the
fundamental nature of reality information-theoretic? This course
considers these and similar questions by investigating the concepts of information and computation from the point of view
of physics. Part 1 considers the relation between thermodynamic
entropy and classical information; Part 2 considers the relation
between spacetime structure and physical concepts of computation; Part
3 considers the relation between quantum and classical information; and
Part 4 considers recent attempts to reconceive physics entirely in
information-theoretic terms. This course is aimed at students
interested in the conceptual and philosophical foundations of
science. No prior background in physics or computer science is
required. Pre-requisite: One 2xxx-level HuSS Elective from
the STS Cluster, or permission of the instructor.
- Barker-Plummer, D. (2009)
Machines", The Stanford
Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2009 Edition), E. Zalta
- Bub, J. (2004) "Why the
Quantum?", Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod.
- Bub, J. (2001) "Maxwell's Demon
and the Thermodynamics of
Computation", Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod.
Phys. 32: 569-579.
- Earman, E. and J. Norton (1999)
"Exorcist XIV: The
Wrath of Maxwell's Demon. Part II. From Szilard to Landauer
and Beyond", Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod.
Phys. 30: 1-40.
- Earman, E. and J. Norton (1998)
"Exocist XIV: The
Wrath of Maxwell's Demon. Part I. From Maxwell to Szilard",
Stud. Hist. Phil. Mod.
Phys. 29: 435-471.
- Earman, J. and J. Norton (1993)
"Forever is a Day:
Supertasks in Pitowski and Malament-Hogarth Spacetimes", Philosophy of Science 60:
- Finn, C. P. (1993) Thermal
Physics, Chapman & Hall (excerpts).
- Friedan, B. R. (1999) Physics
from Fisher Information, Cambridge Univ. Press, (excerpts).
- Goldsein, S. (2001) "Boltzmann's
Approach to Statistical
Mechanics", in Bricmont, J. et al. (eds.) Chance in Physics: Foundations and
Perspectives, Lecture Notes in Physics 574, Springer:
- Hogarth, M. (1994) "Non-Turing
Computers and Non-Turing
Computability", in PSA 1994,
D. Hull, M. Forbes & R. Burian (eds.), Philosophy of Science
- Rieffel, E. and W. Polak (2000)
"An Introduction to Quantum
Computing for Non-Physicists", arXiv:quantu-ph/9809016v2.
- Timpson, C. (2008)
"Philosophical Aspects of Quantum
Information Theory", in D. Rickles (ed.) The Ashgate Companion to the New
Philosophy of Physics, Ashgate.
- Timpson, C. (2004) Quantum
Information Theory and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, PhD
Dissertation, University of Oxford (excerpt).
- Wolfram, S. (2002) A New
Kind of Science, Wolfram Media, (excerpts).
- Three papers of 5-7
pages each. Suggested topics will be provided at least 2 weeks
before their due dates. All papers must conform to writing
guidelines handed out and discussed on the first day of class. Late paper policy: Late
papers will be accepted but will be given an initial penalty of a third
of a grade point, and a further penalty of a third of a grade point for
every period of 4 days after the due date. Example: An A
paper turned in one day late will receive an A-; an A paper turned in 4
days late will receive a B+; an A paper turned in 8 days late will
receive a B; etc. Late papers
cannot be accepted after the date
of the final.
- Six take-home assignments due
every other week on the dates listed below. These assignments
will involve primarily conceptual questions on the material covered in
lecture. Late assignments
cannot be accepted.
- One midterm and one final.
These will consist of short answer questions and short essay questions.
Assignments: 20% total
Papers: 30% total (3 @10%)
V. Reminders on University Policies
It is university and HuSS departmental policy that incompletes can be
given only in very extenuating circumstances (medical emergencies, etc.). In particular, an
incomplete cannot be given because of a heavy course load, job
commitments, or because you've simply fallen behind in the
course. For this reason, you must attend every lecture and make
sure you're aware of assignment deadlines and exam dates. If for
whatever reason you find yourself falling behind during the semester,
do not hesitate to see the instructor as soon as possible.
Honor System. All students should be aware of the
university policy on cheating and plagiarism. Cheating on an
exam, or plagiarizing on an essay assignment, are sufficient reasons
for receiving an F in the course.
VI. Class Schedule
The following schedule may need to
be revised as Fall 2010 dates are finalized.
9/7. Part I:
Entropy and Information
Carnot and Heat
Background: Finn (1993) Chap 3.
Formulations of the
Finn (1993) Chap 4.
Earman & Norton (1998) pp.
435-464. Assignment #1 due.
Information: Szilard and Landauer.
& Norton (1999) pp.
Bub (2001). Assignment #2 due.
Computation and Spacetime Physics
Turing Machines & the Church-Turing
General Relativity and Curved Spacetimes.
Supertasks in Curved
Supertasks in Curved Spacetimes.
Quantum vs. Classical
& Polak (2000) pp.
Qubits and No-Cloning.
Timpson (2008) pp. 1-7.
Timpson (2008) pp. 7-13. Assignment
Dense Coding and
(2008) pp. 13-20; Rieffel
& Polak (2000).
Coding and Teleportation, cont.
(2008) pp. 20-22; Rieffel
& Polak (2000)
Info vs Shannon Info.
Timpson (2008) pp. 22-29. Assignment #5 due. Paper2
||11/16. Part IV:
Physics from Quantum Information.
(2008) pp. 38-45; Bub (2004).
Physics from Quantum Information, cont.
Physics from Fisher
NO CLASS (THANKSGIVING)
Physics from Cellular
from Cellular Automata, cont. Assignment #6 due.
date to be
announced by registrar