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Computation

** Computation ** is a general term for any type of [information processing] . This includes phenomena ranging from human thinking to calculations with a more narrow meaning. Computation is a process following a well-defined [model] that is understood and can be expressed in an [algorithm] , [protocol] , [network topology] , etc. Computation is also a major subject matter of [computer science] : it investigates what can or cannot be done in a computational manner.

** Classes of computation **

Computation can be classified by at least three orthogonal criteria: [digital] vs [analog] , [sequential] vs [parallel] vs [concurrent] , [batch] vs [interactive] .

In practice, digital computation is often used to simulate natural processes (for example,

[Evolutionary computation] ), including those that are more naturally described by analog models of computation (for example, [Artificial neural network] ). In this situation, it is important to distinguish between the mechanism of computation and the simulated model.

** Computations as a physical phenomenon **

A computation can be seen as a purely physical phenomenon occurring inside a closed [physical system] called a [computer] .

Examples of such physical systems include [digital computer] s, [quantum computer] s, [DNA computer] s, [molecular computer] s, [analog computer] s or [wetware computer] s.

This point of view is the one adopted by the branch of theoretical physics called the [physics of computation] .

An even more radical point of view is the postulate of [digital physics] that the evolution of the universe itself is a computation - Pancomputationalism.

** Mathematical models of computation **

In the [theory of computation] , a diversity of mathematical models of computers have been developed.

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