Quantum Computing Since Democritus now out in the US! 20% discount for Shtetl-Optimized readers

OK, this will be my last blog post hawking Quantum Computing Since Democritus, at least for a while.  But I do have four pieces of exciting news about the book that I want to share.

  1. Amazon is finally listing the print version of QCSD as available for shipment in North America, slightly ahead of schedule!  Amazon’s price is $35.27.
  2. Cambridge University Press has very generously offered readers of Shtetl-Optimized a 20% discount off their list price—meaning $31.99 instead of $39.99—if you click this link to order directly from them.  Note that CUP has a shipping charge of $6.50.  So ordering from CUP might either be slightly cheaper or slightly more expensive than ordering from Amazon, depending (for example) on whether you get free shipping from Amazon Prime.
  3. So far, there have been maybe 1000 orders and preorders for QCSD (not counting hundreds of Kindle sales).  The book has also spent a month as one of Amazon’s top few “Quantum Physics” sellers, with a fabulous average rating of 4.6 / 5 stars from 9 reviews (or 4.9 if we discount the pseudonymous rant by Joy Christian).  Thanks so much to everyone who ordered a copy; I hope you like it!  Alas, these sales figures also mean that QCSD still has a long way to go before it enters the rarefied echelon of—to pick a few top Amazon science sellers—Cosmos, A Brief History of TimeProof of Heaven (A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife), Turn On Your SUPER BRAIN, or The Lemon Book (Natural Recipes and Preparations).  So, if you believe that QCSD deserves to be with such timeless classics, then put your money where your mouth is and help make it happen!
  4. The most exciting news of all?  Luboš Motl is reading the free copy of QCSD that I sent him and blogging his reactions chapter-by-chapter!  So, if you’d like to learn about how mathematicians and computer scientists simply lack the brainpower to do physics—which is why we obsess over kindergarten trivialities like the Church-Turing Thesis or the Axiom of Choice, and why we insist idiotically that Nature use only the mathematical structures that our inferior minds can grasp—then check out Luboš’s posts about Chapters 1-3 or Chapters 4-6.  If, on the other hand, you want to see our diacritical critic pleasantly surprised by QCSD’s later chapters on cryptography, quantum mechanics, and quantum computing, then here’s the post for you.  Either way, be sure to scroll down to the comments, where I patiently defend the honor of theoretical computer science against Luboš’s hilarious ad hominem onslaughts.

35 Responses to “Quantum Computing Since Democritus now out in the US! 20% discount for Shtetl-Optimized readers”

  1. Daniel Bilar Says:

    Dear Prof. Aaronson

    I hope this email finds you well and in good spirits. Congratulations on your book launching. It looks like a labor of love. If I may make a suggestion: I think you should advertise the associated course as well http://www.scottaaronson.com/democritus/

    Thanks and have a great evening

    Daniel Bilar

  2. Jeffrey Scofield Says:

    I had to modify the direct CUP link to get it to work. What I see on this page is a link to a nonexistent subdirectory of this blog. But I figured it out and ordered a discounted copy for each of my sons. I hope you left in the swearing (I will soon see).

  3. Pangloss Says:

    How about a review of Lee Smolin’s Time Reborn? A fascinating book that has wide-ranging implications for quantum mechanics (among other disciplines).

  4. Scott Says:

    Jeffrey #2: Sorry, fixed!

  5. Rahul Says:

    As an aside, who chooses the Kindle price? You or the publisher.

    Won’t $9.99 more likely maximize your revenues than $19.67? Or is the danger with $9.99 that it might cannibalize on the $35 paper book sales?

    I wonder what the price elasticity of Kindle sales is……

  6. Rahul Says:

    Luboš’s old gripe about Scott’s mercenary attitude to science is a tad ironic given the number of ads peppered on his blog webpage. Very distracting. Interrupt the flow of reading totally.

    I like Shetl’s ad free format much better!

  7. Scott Says:

    Rahul #5: I had no involvement with setting prices, except that I told my editor early on that I wanted them to be low (which is one reason why there’s no hardback edition).

  8. an alex Says:


    Are there plans to sell the book via other channels (f.e. O’Reilly) in an open e-book format?

  9. Bill Kaminsky Says:

    1) Echoing Rahul’s question — especially since you’re now a dad, Scott, and raising kids costs a lot (for example, Ray-Kurzweil-style-extrapolation-where-we’ll-assume-a-double-exponential-with-ever-shortening-doubling-time implies that the cost of a traditional 4-year college education will be approximately eleventy trillion dollars a year by the time Lily goes):

    Do sales from some outlets yield more $$$ for you than others? Or is the amount of $$$ fixed regardless of sales (either de jure, or de facto in that, if I understand such matters correctly, royalties are often a pittance compared to one’s advance)?

  10. Bill Kaminsky Says:

    [[Ooops, pressed submit comment accidently… forgetting I had a second point]]

    2) On Pangloss’s request for a review of Smolin’s _Time Reborn_: I recently was thumbing through it in the MIT Coop. Perhaps foolishly, I focused my skimming on Smolin’s final chapter where he argues that viewing time as fundamental rather than emergent will revolutionize fields beyond physics. Sadly, I gotta say I was underwhelmed by this final chapter. For example, one of the fields Smolin thinks could be revolutionized is economics. IMHO, Smolin advances a bizarre argument for this premise. Specifically, Smolin seems to me to be seriously arguing that if physicists were to establish that time is fundamental and not emergent, then economists will no longer promote right-wing policies with static equilibrium analyses of simplified models. After all, if time is fundamental, then they’ll then know economic *dynamics* — e.g., how long does it take to reach equilibrium? heck, do you ever reach any equilibrium or just bounce around saddle-point like ridges separating equilbria in an absurdly high dimensional space? — is really where all the important questions lie.

    I can’t recall Smolin addressing fundamental counterarguments to his premise like:

    (1) many an economist already realizes that dynamics are where all the important questions lie, it’s just that no sufficiently-general-yet-still-solvable dynamical model can be formulated that it’s insulated from critiques that it’s a “just-so” type of model whose behaviors needn’t describe anything important about the real world


    (2) perhaps more importantly, many an economist has no freakin’ idea whatsoever that many a physicist might consider time to be emergent rather than fundamental

    As I type the above, it seems so absurd that I feel I must peruse the book again, because I can’t believe Smolin would make so silly an argument just to argue his book has something to say about economics as well as physics. (I mean that sincerely, not ironically… let alone sarcastically.)

    So take the above with a grain of salt… but those indeed are my first impressions of Smolin’s book.

  11. Scott Says:

    an alex #8:

      Are there plans to sell the book via other channels (f.e. O’Reilly) in an open e-book format?

    It’s up to CUP. Right now, I don’t know of any plans to publish the book in any formats beyond those in which it’s already been published. (That might depend on the sales! 🙂 )

  12. Scott Says:

    Bill Kaminsky #9: I had the same question! I still don’t understand whether the amount of royalties I get from each Kindle sale is the same as what I get from each paperback sale (my editor was supposed to get back to me about that). In any case, though, the amounts we’re talking about are so small that you certainly shouldn’t let that influence your decision of which one to buy.

  13. Scott Says:

    Pangloss #3 and Bill Kaminsky #10: I haven’t bought or read Lee’s new book yet. I enjoyed Three Roads to Quantum Gravity and The Trouble with Physics, though with a few reservations (e.g., the distinction between “seers” and “craftspeople” seemed patronizing). But regarding Time Reborn, I had the same impression as Bill: what Lee argues in the last chapters sounded so unpromising to me that it made me slightly reluctant to read the book at all. Maybe I will, but there are lots of other books on my pile to read first.

  14. Michael McG Says:


    Is this what a diacrtical critique looks like?


    Seriously, congrats on the book sales. 🙂

  15. Michael McG Says:

    And, yes, I do realize the irony of my misspelling “diacritical”. 😀

  16. Boaz Barak Says:

    Hi Scott! Congratulations on your book finally reaching the colonies – this restless native couldn’t wait and ordered it from the UK 🙂

    Some of the “critiques” of your book in the blogs you linked and their comments are absolutely hilarious.

    In particular I think Lubos completely misunderstood the point you were trying to make in your preface about the need for intuition in science. After all the goal of science is not just to *predict* nature but also *understand* it. (e.g., physicists didn’t make theories to predict what would happen if people might accidentally build a particle accelerator – they build the accelerator to verify the theories.) So, as you say in the book, it’s not enough to learn that nature conflicts with our initial intuition – for true understanding we need to come up with a new intuition.

  17. Scott Says:

    Boaz #16: Thanks so much!

    I found Lubos’s thoughts about correcting our mistaken intuitions to be striking:

      [Aaronson] thinks that he was told that his physical intuition was wrong while no one gave him a path to correct his intuition. It’s like flunking him on an exam without providing any hint how he could have done better, Aaronson wrote … But whether someone told him how to correct his intuition, the most important thing is still that he has failed the exam! His intuition didn’t agree with Nature’s actual behavior so he and his musings had to be flunked. The purpose of science isn’t to provide help to children who were left behind. The purpose of science is to find the truth by eliminating the ideas that are wrong. In Aaronson’s analogy, flunking the bad students isn’t a negative side effect of science; it is its very purpose!

    Taken at face value, this passage seems to suggest that anyone who isn’t born with an intuition already matched to Nature’s behavior deserves to be “flunked” and “eliminated” from science. I dare say that that would include Lubos himself! 🙂 And even if it didn’t—e.g., if Lubos never had any misconceptions about QM that had to be corrected—his stance still raises the problem of what the point is of any pedagogical effort, including his own. Why not just say, “I would help you understand what entanglement is, but either you already know, or else you’re a failing child who deserves to be eliminated?”

  18. Silas Barta Says:

    Ordered the paper version (then realized I could have ordered the Kindle and that they don’t give a discount for the bundle).

    Looking forward to reading it!

  19. an alex Says:


    Thanks for the reply.

    (PS. This is a great blog.)

  20. Robert Rehbock Says:

    I fear both you and LM protest too much. You and he actually do agree more than most on QM interpretation. As to attitude, well QM makes sense in exactly the way you and he both present.

    LM may be correct that your concise QM chapter 9 may be too concise for some but it has all the meaning with just enough of the math to stay true to the theory.

    Anyway, I shall likely buy the paper edition. I still prefer that for works I may look at again.

  21. Scott Says:

    Robert Rehbock #20:

      I fear both you and LM protest too much. You and he actually do agree more than most on QM interpretation.

    I agree! It’s LM who doesn’t really agree about the fact of our agreement. 🙂

  22. Rahul Says:

    Could it be that part of the Scott-LM friction is due to what I perceive as Scott’s somewhat dismissive / antagonistic attitude towards physicists?

    With the caveat that I haven’t read the book but have watched a fair bit of Scott talks / read his posts.

    Is my perception true or am I mistaking Scott’s jokes / sarcasm for something that it isn’t.

  23. Serge Says:

    You and Luboš must be very good friends to be using such a harsh tone at each other… 🙂

    I like what he says about the relationship between math and physics. I don’t think the infinite set of Turing machines is a valid description of the finite world we live in, for it probably has the same status as Euclid’s infinite lines, planes, and 3D spaces – allowed to be parallel to one another in mathematics but not in reality.

    Besides, Turing machines badly lack the notion of data structure. How can you explain that some data structures will yield more efficient algorithms than some others in a structureless computing model? After all, the structures yield the algorithms in very much the same way as matter yields space in General Relativity. And also, processes yield time but that’s another story…

  24. Scott Says:

    Rahul #22:

      Could it be that part of the Scott-LM friction is due to what I perceive as Scott’s somewhat dismissive / antagonistic attitude towards physicists?

    ROTFL! Here’s what I suggest: first, spend a few hours perusing the archives of Lubos’s blog (or if you’re pressed for time, check out this set of gems compiled by Sabine Hossenfelder). Then, come back and explain to me how the “Scott-LM friction” is due to my dismissive and antagonistic attitudes. 😉

  25. Aspirin Says:

    I just read that document and am now convinced that Motl can productively launch a second career as a first-rate stand-up comedian.

  26. John Sidles Says:

    Scott avers “Scott-LM friction” is [not] due to my dismissive and antagonistic attitudes.”

    The literature supplies the following reasonable overview:

    “Without a trace of irony I can say that I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. They made me suffer (after all, they were enemies), but I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and sent me in new directions. We need such people in our creative lives. As John Stuart Mill once put it, both teachers and learners fall asleep at their posts when there is no enemy in the field.”

         Ed Wilson, Naturalist (1984)

    Conclusion  As with any research discipline, the members of the QIT/CT community stand in urgent need of better enemies.

    Fortunately, in this regard, Scott and Lubos are entirely in agreement! 🙂

  27. Chris Says:

    Im up to the ‘Fun with the Anthropic Principle’ chapter. Thoroughly enjoying the book so far! Especially loved the ‘Proofs’ and ‘How Big are Quantum States’ chapters! ive reread most of the chapters a couple of times, really get my brain moving! fascinating stuff!

  28. Scott Says:

    Thanks so much, Chris!

  29. T H Ray Says:

    Speaking of Fun with the Anthropic Principle, I don’t think Lubos is doing himself any favors by censoring my reply to his claim that zero is not a number in relation to the axioms of succession and induction. He just looks like a fool. I wanted to tell him that his insistence on numberS, plural — as he puts it — is a “tautologically true” statement — which makes all of us egalitarian minded people “generic morons” is the veriest stupidity regardless of whether one is speaking of social policy or just mathematics.

    Such is the tragedy of ideological blindness.


  30. Michael Sweney Says:

    I put QCSD on pre-pub backorder with Amazon and got my copy last week!! Now I have to find a professor here who will use it as the text for an independent study course! BIG QUESTION: will it ever come out in hardback? Much more durable that way!! Thanks Scott for your wonderful book and wonderful website!

  31. Scott Says:

    Thanks so much, Michael! We didn’t plan any hardback edition, simply because we wanted to keep the prices low. On the other hand, if QCSD becomes a runaway bestseller, I’m sure CUP will be happy to print a hardback “collectors’ edition” 🙂

  32. Ninguem Says:

    I bought the book and I am enjoying it. I am still on Ch. 3, but already have a nitpick. Why did you omit the principle of induction from the Peano axioms?

  33. Scott Says:

    Ninguem #32: Good point, thanks! Well, Peano’s original induction principle was second-order, and would take us outside the first-order world whose elucidation was the point of that chapter. But if there’s a second edition, I suppose I should discuss some first-order induction schema.

  34. Michael Sweney Says:

    Only computational complexity book on the market that uses the word: “****load” to explain Cook-Levin!! How in the world did the CUP editors let that go through!!? Not that I mind……..

  35. Henning Dekantq Says:

    He compares you to Islamic terrorists. Don’t even know what to make of this. It’s about as funny as Rush Limbaugh’s ramblings:

    “… much like the Islamic terrorists, he [Scott] is personifying the wrong ideas about quantum mechanics …”