• Instructors: Prof. Haoqi Zhang and Prof. Jason Hartline
  • Monday (9/30/2013): [slides] history, evolution, genetics, societies, the brain, digital computers
  • Wednesday (10/2/2013):[slides] theory of computation, universality, duality, Turing machines, halting problem

Discussion Questions

Consider and answer these questions while you do this week's reading.

Submit your answers to Monday's questions

Submit your answers to Wednesday's questions

  • What is a computer? (Is a wristwatch a computer? Is a school of fish a computer? Is your smart (or dumb) phone a computer? Are you a computer?)
  • What is computation? (Is keeping time a computation? Is avoiding being eaten by sharks a computation? Is looking up a number in your address book a computation? Is reading and understanding this question a computation?)
  • What is not computation? What is not a computer?
  • What are other academic fields where computation may play a central role?
  • What is "computational thinking"?
  • What is the difference between a universal computer and a non-universal computer? Give examples of each. Are you a universal computer? Is your smartphone a universal computer? Is your wristwatch a universal computer?
  • If you are a computer and your smartphone is a universal computer, how come your smartphone cannot simulate you?
  • Are there limits to what computer can compute?
  • What is the relationship between computer programs, computer simulations, and universal computation?
  • What is duality and what does it mean to run a computer program with another computer program as its input?

Reading and Media

Articles for the week can be obtained individually from their sources below, by the day, or as a single PDF.



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