Proceedings of the Philosophy of Science Association 2002 (3):S168-S177 (2002)
|Abstract||1. The Physical Church-Turing Thesis. Physicists often interpret the Church-Turing Thesis as saying something about the scope and limitations of physical computing machines. Although this was not the intention of Church or Turing, the Physical Church Turing thesis is interesting in its own right. Consider, for example, Wolfram’s formulation: One can expect in fact that universal computers are as powerful in their computational capabilities as any physically realizable system can be, that they can simulate any physical system . . . No physically implementable procedure could then shortcut a computationally irreducible process. (Wolfram 1985) Wolfram’s thesis consists of two parts: (a) Any physical system can be simulated (to any degree of approximation) by a universal Turing machine (b) Complexity bounds on Turing machine simulations have physical signiﬁcance. For example, suppose that the computation of the minimum energy of some system of n particles takes at least exponentially (in n) many steps. Then the relaxation time of the actual physical system to its minimum energy state will also take exponential time.|
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