Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, April 16, 2014
HP Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building Room B1

Insights into The Nature of Time in Physics, and implications for Computer Science

Paul Borrill
EARTH Computing
About the talk:

The concept of time is a well recognized enigma in physics. According to the great physicist John Archibald Wheeler: Beyond all day-to-day problems in physics, in the profound issues of principle that confront us today, no difficulties are more central than those associated with the concept of time. In computer science, we tend to sweep these issues under the rug, and rely on an overly-simplistic concept of linear time that implicitly includes notions such as simultaneity and irreversibility, which are known to be incorrect in our two most successful physical theories: Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Part One of this lecture reviews the current state of our understanding of time from physics. Part Two highlights the implicit assumptions we so often use in computer science, and their possible implications on the correctness, reliability and performance of our systems. Part Three introduces a recently published conjecture on the relationship between information, entanglement and time, as a vehicle to both challenge the way we think about time when we design our algorithms and develop our models of computations. We hope to stimulate new ways of thinking that advance computer science down richer and perhaps more innovative paths.


The following background documents may be helpful.


Download the slides for this presentation in PDF format.

About the speaker:

[speaker photo] Paul Borrill is founder and CEO of EARTH Computing, inc., and is a leading industry expert on the foundations of IT Infrastructures. He served as VP/CTO for VERITAS Software; VP/Chief Architect for Storage Systems at Quantum; Distinguished Engineer, Director of Architecture & Performance and Chief Scientist of Information Resources at Sun Microsystems. He founded the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA), serving as its Chairman, and served several terms as Vice President and member of the Governing Board of the IEEE Computer Society. His lifelong interest in dependable computing came from working with NASA, designing computer systems & software for an experiment which performed extraordinarily well on flight 51c of the Space Shuttle. Paul earned his Ph.D in physics from University College London and is a graduate of the Stanford Executive Program.

Contact information:

Paul Borrill
EARTH Computing