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Neal Stephenson


John von Neumann (1903 - 1957)
John von Neumann (Neumann JŠnos) was a Hungarian-American mathematician who made important contributions in quantum physics, set theory, computer science, economics and virtually all mathematical fields. He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Budapest at the age of 23.

He was one of four people selected for first faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study. He worked on the Manhattan Project.

He is the father of game theory and published the classic book Theory of Games and Economic Behavior with Oskar Morgenstern in 1944. He conceived the concept of "MAD" (Mutually assured destruction), which dominated American Nuclear Strategy in the post-war era.

Von Neumann dashed all hope of developing a deterministic quantum mechanics until his work was overturned by David Bohm, J.S. Bell, and others. He held a strong belief in the role of the observer in creating the collapse of the quantum wave function.

Von Neumann devised the von Neumann architecture used in all non-parallel-processing computers. Virtually every commercially available home computer, microcomputer and supercomputer is a von Neumann machine. He created the field of cellular automata without computers, constructing the first examples of self-replicating automata with pencil and graph paper. The term von Neumann machine also refers to self replicating machines. Von Neumann proved that the most effective way large scale mining operations such as mining an entire moon or asteroid belt can be accomplished is through the use of self-replicating machines, to take advantage of the exponential growth of such mechanisms.

Von Neumann had a mind of great ingenuity and near total recall. He was an extravert who loved drinking, dancing and having a good time. He had a fun-loving nature with a great love of jokes and humor.

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