Oh boy! Stephen Wolfram just posted at Amazon.com the following critique of Scott Aaronson’s new book, “Quantum Computing Since Democritus”. Apparently these two don’t talk to each other ever since Scott wrote a particularly acerbic review of Wolfram’s book, “A New Kind of Science”. I’m reprinting below the entire Wolfram review of Scott’s book:
Reviewer: Stephen Wolfram (April 1, 2013)
Scott Aaronson thinks that he can derive all of physics from just one silly idea from computer science, what is called cellular automata Rule 110 complexity theory. Good luck Mr. Aaronson!
I think Scott Aaronson has delusions of grandeur. Even the title of his book: “A New Kind of Science, Quantum Computing Since Democritus” sounds a bit pretentious to me. Mr. Aaronson thinks he can write a really fat book about everything under the sun and that everyone is going to rush to read every word of it. Good luck Mr. Aaronson!
Mr. Aaronson could have chosen to write a nice slim volume like Hawking’s “A Brief history of Time”, and just like Hawking, he could have had in his hands a runaway bestseller, very popular among housewives and in their book reading clubs. But no! Instead he chose to write a book which is neither fish nor fowl. Too big and technical to be suitable for housewives, and too sketchy to be satisfying to their scientist husbands. I predict that very few people will buy his book, which has the exorbitant price of $35.99 in paperback.
Even though he has only been trained as a theoretical computer scientist (a hopelessly unemployable and unproductive clan not to be confused with that of computer programmers, to which I belong here at Mathematica), Aaronson honestly believes that he invented quantum mechanics for the first time and that he understands it better than the vast majority of physicists, dead or alive, better even than me, an ex-high energy physicist trained at Eton, Oxford, Caltech and Princeton, and better than other towering figures of 20th century physics like Michio Kaku, Max Tegmark, Sean Carroll or Seth Lloyd.
The cover of Aaronson’s book also sucks. Who wants to buy a book with a portrait of Aaronson (coming out of the shower?) on the front cover. I’m sorry if he is a blind Greek philosopher noted for his bad jokes and for long lists of blog comments, but that’s besides the point. The guy is no movie star. Couldn’t he have substituted his portrait by that of a nice, friendly dog, wagging its tail, or one of a buxom blonde lady in a strapless, for example. I mean, honestly, would you have bought “A New Kind of Science” if I had ignored the objections of my publisher and put a portrait of myself, on its front cover as I wanted?[editor’s note: Think George Constanza]
Before buying, I recommend to the reader that he/she wait until the free MOOC version of the book comes out, or until it can be found at yard sales for 50 cents.