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A New Kind of Science Hardcover – May 1 2002

311 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1197 pages
  • Publisher: Wolfram Media Inc; 1 edition (May 1 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579550088
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579550080
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 20.7 x 6.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2.5 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #138,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Physics and computer science genius Stephen Wolfram, whose Mathematica computer language launched a multimillion-dollar company, now sets his sights on a more daunting goal: understanding the universe. A New Kind of Science is a gorgeous, 1,280-page tome more than a decade in the making. With patience, insight, and self-confidence to spare, Wolfram outlines a fundamental new way of modelling complex systems.

On the frontier of complexity science since he was a boy, Wolfram is a champion of cellular automata--256 "programs" governed by simple non-mathematical rules. He points out that even the most complex equations fail to accurately model biological systems, but the simplest cellular automata can produce results straight out of nature--tree branches, stream eddies, and leopard spots, for instance. The graphics in A New Kind of Science show striking resemblance to the patterns we see in nature every day.

Wolfram wrote the book in a distinct style meant to make it easy to read, even for non-techies; a basic familiarity with logic is helpful but not essential. Readers will find themselves swept away by the elegant simplicity of Wolfram's ideas and the accidental artistry of the cellular automaton models. Whether or not Wolfram's revolution ultimately gives us the keys to the universe, his new science is absolutely awe-inspiring. --Therese Littleton

From Library Journal

Galileo proclaimed that nature is written in the language of mathematics, but Wolfram would argue that it is written in the language of programs and, remarkably, simple ones at that. A scientific prodigy who earned a doctorate from Caltech at age 20, Wolfram became a Nobel-caliber researcher in the emerging field of complexity shortly thereafter only to abscond from academe and establish his own software company (which published this book). In secrecy, for over ten years, he experimented with computer graphics called cellular automata, which produce shaded images on grid patterns according to programmatic rules (973 images are reproduced here). Wolfram went on to discover that the same vastly complex images could be produced by even very simple sets of rules and argues here that dynamic and complex systems throughout nature are triggered by simple programs. Mathematical science can describe and in some cases predict phenomena but cannot truly explain why what happens happens. Underscoring his point that simplicity begets complexity, Wolfram wrote this book in mostly nontechnical language. Any informed, motivated reader can, with some effort, follow from chapter to chapter, but the work as a whole and its implications are probably understood fully by the author alone. Had this been written by a lesser scientist, many academics might have dismissed it as the work of a crank. Given its source, though, it will merit discussion for years to come. Essential for all academic libraries. [This tome is a surprise best seller on Amazon. Ed.] Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Alban.
- Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 2 2004
Format: Hardcover
Unlike many reviewers, I read this book completely, including most of the notes. As a computer engineer, I am familiar with many of its ideas, and I have published and peer-reviewed technical papers.
With some of the negative reviewers, I will agree that:
- The book is long.
- It contains self-praise.
- Others have explored some of its ideas.
If you are in the mindset of peer-reviewing a conference/journal publication, those three things might very much bother you. However, this is not a conference/journal submission! This is a book for a very wide range of audiences, and it is always very difficult to satisfy such a range. IF your own ego can get over the author's self-praise, then you can really enjoy the book for the following:
- A thorough exploration of a very important idea, which may sometimes seem obvious but when actually incorporated into our thinking can indeed profoundly affect the way we approach some scientific problems.
- A fascinating demonstration of how science selects the problems it considers important simply based on its ability to solve them. This works both ways, with the book pointing out how classic methods completely avoid certain problems, but also happens again in a new way in the course of the book as Wolfram himself selects problems to solve based on the applicability of the concepts he introduces.
- A delightful conglomeration of fascinating concepts and problems from all kinds of fields, including computer science, physics, biology, philosophy, etc. If you read the notes, this book takes you on a grand tour of the state of science in many areas, and I can't even imagine the effort that must have gone into compiling, understanding, and organizing all this information. I understand why it took 10 years, and this alone makes the book worth its value.
Put your ego and the egos of others aside, and simply enjoy!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Grossman on Aug. 4 2002
Format: Hardcover
As everyone who can read English and has been awake for the past six months knows, Stephen Wolfram has written how certain cellular automata have the "universal" property of being able to perform any calculation that can be performed on a computer or anything else. Wolfram generates thousands of lovely pictures that, he claims, are similar to those observed in many physical and biological systems. All these pictures are generated by simple rules and sometimes simple initial conditions. Yet, some show surprisingly complex and seemingly random behaviour.
So far so good. Wolfram's next contention is that the complexity found in what he calls Class 4 cellular automata cannot be exceeded by any physical, biological or computational process. Put more boldly, every physical, biological, psychological, financial, meteorolical and, no doubt, astrological feature of the universe that exhibits complexity is generated by some sort of cellular automaton with appropriate initial conditions.
Such a statement cannot, of course, be proved in any acceptable way. To compensate, Wolfram gives us many examples of phenomena whose random behaviour resembles those of cellular automata. He is most convincing with his pictures of real seashells and arguments about turbulence in fluids (I especially liked his wafting smoke in the air anology.) He is less persuasive when he argues that evolution has nothing to do with maximizing anything and everything to do with generated patterns, some of which survive. When he talks about the analogy between Class 4 cellular automata and human cognition, he is downright silly.
Yet this is all irrelevant. Wolfram is scathing in the inability of mathematics to solve anything but the simplest physical problems.
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84 of 88 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Oct. 14 2002
Format: Hardcover
Why you are reading this review
I can only imagine how fortunate you must feel to be reading my review. This review is the product of my lifetime of experience in meeting important people and thinking deep thoughts. This is a new kind of review, and will no doubt influence the way you
think about the world around you and the way you think of yourself.
Bigger than infinity
Although my review deserves thousands of pages to articulate, I am limiting many of my deeper thoughts to only single characters. I encourage readers of my review to dedicate the many years required to fully absorb the significance of what I am writing here. Fortunately, we live in exactly the time when my review can be widely disseminated by "internet" technology and stored on "digital media", allowing current and future scholars to delve more deeply into my original and insightful use of commas, numbers, and letters.
My place in history
My review allows, for the first time, a complete and total understanding not only of this but *every single*
book ever written. I call this "the principle of book equivalence." Future generations will decide the relative merits of this review compared with, for example, the works of Shakespeare. This effort will open new realms of scholarship.
I am the author of all things
It is staggering to contemplate that all the great works of literature can be derived from the letters I use in writing this review. I am pleased to have shared them with you, and hereby grant you the liberty to use up to twenty (20) of them consecutively without attribution. Any use of additional characters in print must acknowledge this review as source material since it contains, implicitly or explicitly, all future written documents.
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