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Extended Audio Sample Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe, by George Dyson Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (493 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: George Dyson Narrator: Arthur More Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A groundbreaking history of the Princeton computer.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Dyson’s book is not only learned, but brilliantly and surprisingly idiosyncratic and strange.”

    Boston Globe

  • “With moments of insight, quirk and hilarity rendering it more than just a great book about science. It’s a great book, period.”

    Globe and Mail (Toronto)

  • “A mesmerizing tale brilliantly told.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “No other book about the beginnings of the digital age…makes the connections this one does between the lessons of the computer’s origin and the possible paths of its future.”

    Guardian (London)

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books, Best Science and Nature 2012
  • A 2012 Barnes & Noble Best Book for Nonfiction
  • A Kirkus Reviews “New and Notable Title” for Nonfiction, March 2012
  • A 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Science & Technology

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Bert Hopkins | 2/6/2014

    " Tremendous book...half way thru it. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Morgan Blackledge | 2/6/2014

    " This book is a gorgeous, heart felt, nerdy labor of love. George B. Dyson writes like a dream and researches like a hard boiled heart detective. I can't recommend this book to everyone. But if you love science, tech, information theory, 20th century history and biography (you know who you are), than you just might have found your new page turner. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Smith Nickerson | 1/30/2014

    " Worth reading for the historical element. Not much to do with Turing himself but ties in a lot of coldwar history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Padraic McQuarrie | 1/14/2014

    " Very interesting read on the early days of electronic computing and the design of some of the first computers. "

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