The 2008 Midwest NKS Conference: What is computation? How does nature compute?

2008 Midwest NKS Conference: Call for Papers and/or Participation


What is computation? (How) does nature compute?

2008 Midwest NKS Conference

Fri Oct 31 – Sun Nov 2, 2008
Indiana University — Bloomington, IN

In 1964, in one of the six Messenger lectures he delivered at Cornell University (later published as a book “The Character of Physical Law”) Richard Feynman said: “It always bothers me that, according to the laws as we understand them today, it takes a computing machine an infinite number of logical operations to figure out what goes on in no matter how tiny a region of space, and no matter how tiny a region of time … So I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement, that in the end the machinery will be revealed, and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the chequer board with all its apparent complexities.

The topic of the conference has been chosen with this quote in mind. The conference will host a most distinguished group of scientists supporting different views of a computable universe, from those supporting the thesis that Nature performs (only) digital computation and does it up to a maximal level, to those supporting the thesis of nature as a quantum computer. Some strongly suggest however that the true nature of Nature can be only explained by the study of randomness. Randomness however preserves its mysterious reputation, for some of these authors it seems that randomness can be generated deterministically in the classical sense, while others claim the existence of “true” randomness from the principles underlying quantum mechanics necessarily to explain the complexity seen around. This event will become the place of confluence in which all these views will be presented, discussed and analyzed by the guests and the conference participants themselves. After presenting their views during the first three days of the conference, the keynote speakers will then participate in a round table discussion on the topic.

Invited speakers:

  • * Charles Bennett (IBM Research)
  • William Bialek (Princeton University)
  • Cristian Calude (University of Auckland)
  • Gregory Chaitin (IBM Research)
  • David Deutsch (Oxford University, via videoconference)
  • Edward Fredkin (Carnegie Mellon University)
  • Tony Leggett (University of Illinois)
  • Seth Lloyd (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Stephen Wolfram (Wolfram Research)
  • * Leonid Levin (Boston University)

* to be confirmed

Round table moderators:

  • James Gleick (author of Chaos, Genius and Isaac Newton)
  • Gerardo Ortiz (Indiana University Bloomington)
  • Hector Zenil (Univ. of Paris 1 and Univ of Lille 1)

Conference topics:
Topics of interest for submissions include (but are not limited to):

– Pure NKS projects
– The physics of computation
– Computational physics
– Foundations of computation
– Universality and Irreducibility
– Classical (digital) and quantum computation
– Algorithmic information theory

It is encouraged to relate the above topics with the conference title (What is computation? (How) does nature compute?) and the points of intersection between classical computation, quantum computation, algorithmic information theory, and the principle of computational equivalence.

Organizing committee:

Adrian German (Indiana University Bloomington)
Gerardo Ortiz (Indiana University Bloomington)
Hector Zenil (Univ. Paris 1 and Univ. of Lille 1)

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