Nonsequential computation and laws of nature

  • Paul M. B. Vitángi
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 227)


Traditionally, computational complexity theory deals with sequential computations. In the computational models the underlying physics is hardly accounted for. This attitude has persisted in common models for parallel computations. Wrongly, as we shall argue, since the laws of physics intrude forcefully when we want to obtain realistic estimates of the performance of parallel or distributed algorithms. First, we shall explain why it is reasonable to abstract away from the physical details in sequential computations. Second, we show why certain common approaches in the theory of parallel complexity do not give useful information about the actual complexity of the parallel computation. Third, we give some examples of the interplay between physical considerations and actual complexity of distributed computations.


Communication Delay Memory Hierarchy Wire Length Sequential Computation Defense Advance Research Project Agency 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul M. B. Vitángi
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory for Computer ScienceMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridge
  2. 2.Centrum voor Wiskunde en InformaticaAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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