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A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram
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's review
Mar 19, 09

Read in January, 2006

** spoiler alert ** A fascinating book to read. The computer scientist in me finds Wolfram's approach absolutely credible and spine-chillingly tantalizing. We could learn so much from this. Truth be told, though, I'm not qualified to judge how much potential Wolfram's ideas have in real world science, and while reading, one wonders whether this is the work of contemporary genius on the scale of a new Einstein (for that's what it feels like — reading Wolfram's shockingly straightforward approach to science is like staring the deceptively simple E = mc^2 in the face), or perhaps is the work of an isolated programmer who likes his programs just a bit too much. Again, not for me to judge, but I thoroughly enjoyed the work.

There is so much meaty deliciousness in this book, such that I often found myself rereading, and then rerereading certain pages to make sure I caught everything. But there is also so much dry explication of tedium. Wolfram, for the sake of scientific thoroughness, does not hold back in recounting the exhaustive details of much of his research. In other words, this isn't just a book, but an extremely long scientific paper including data perhaps subject to peer review. If you dive into this daunting tome, be prepared for the infinities of mathematical tedium as well as the exhilaration of new discovery.

Perhaps the greatest highlight of the book are its gorgeous, high-resolution renderings of Wolfram's cellular automata. They are so intricate and beautiful they should stand as works of art in a museum.

I certainly glossed over portions of this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it overall. For a programmer and fellow cellular automata enthusiast (for if there can be said to be such a thing, I am one), this book contains many joys.
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