Computer Science Vs Cosmology ?

November 6, 2006

Madhur asks Was Einstein the only scientist ? Based on “Exaggeration and overgeneralization”, he concludes

1. Mathematics is extremely unpopular and/or unscientific. The only books present in the section are books which brush up your formulae from high-school algebra.
2. Chemistry does not exist.
3. Genome, black-holes and relativity are the “really cool” things.

to which I replied here.

I was reminded of it when reading yet another comment here by Micahel Nielsen complaining of lack of good popular science books on computer science. If you had noticed, that post by Scott Aaronson makes a bit more provocative claim

Judging from the evidence, it’s not that people have engaged the mysteries of P versus NP, randomness and determinism, one-way functions and interactive proofs, and found them insufficiently deep…. If you want to understand why our subject — which by any objective standard, has contributed at least as much over the last 30 years as (say) particle physics or cosmology to humankind’s basic picture of the universe ..

which he supports with a great follow-up post.(See also the nuggets here) Just to give you a taste

There’s a finite (and not unimaginably-large) set of boxes, such that if we knew how to pack those boxes into the trunk of your car, then we’d also know a proof of the Riemann Hypothesis. Indeed, every formal proof of the Riemann Hypothesis with at most (say) a million symbols corresponds to some way of packing the boxes into your trunk, and vice versa. Furthermore, a list of the boxes and their dimensions can be feasibly written down.

Now, why is it so difficult for non-comp-sci people like me to hear such stuff ? 🙂

Anyway, over at CV, you can see a cosmologist respond to that comparison between comp.sci. and cosmology .


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