Limits of Computation: An Introduction to the Undecidable and the Intractable

Edna E. Reiter, Clayton Matthew Johnson

October 29, 2012 by Chapman and Hall/CRC
Reference - 279 Pages - 79 B/W Illustrations
ISBN 9781439882061 - CAT# K13878


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  • Helps readers understand the nature of computation
  • Focuses on the two main questions of theoretical computer science
  • Presents complete proofs of many NP-complete problems
  • Provides in-depth discussions of difficult topics, such as different sizes of infinity, reducibility, and self-reference
  • Describes Turing machines from state diagrams to encodings
  • Assumes no prior knowledge of automata, advanced algorithmic analysis, and formal languages
  • Includes numerous exercises at the end of each chapter
  • Offers PowerPoint slides for download at


Limits of Computation: An Introduction to the Undecidable and the Intractable offers a gentle introduction to the theory of computational complexity. It explains the difficulties of computation, addressing problems that have no algorithm at all and problems that cannot be solved efficiently.

The book enables readers to understand:

  • What does it mean for a problem to be unsolvable or to be NP-complete?
  • What is meant by a computation and what is a general model of a computer?
  • What does it mean for an algorithm to exist and what kinds of problems have no algorithm?
  • What problems have algorithms but the algorithm may take centuries to finish?

Developed from the authors’ course on computational complexity theory, the text is suitable for advanced undergraduate and beginning graduate students without a strong background in theoretical computer science. Each chapter presents the fundamentals, examples, complete proofs of theorems, and a wide range of exercises.