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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. Wolfram lets the world see his work in *A New Kind of Science*, 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 modeling 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 nonmathematical 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 nontechies; 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*

1264 pages, Hardcover

First published June 1, 1997

Stephen Wolfram's parents were Jewish refugees who emigrated from Germany to England in the 1930s. Wolfram's father Hugo was a textile manufacturer and novelist (Into a Neutral Country) and his mother Sybil was a professor of philosophy at the University of Oxford. He has a younger brother, Conrad. Wolfram is married to a mathematician and has four children.

He was educated at Eton College, but claimed to be bored and left it prematurely in 1976. He entered St John's College, Oxford at age 17 but found lectures "awful", and left in 1978 without graduating. He received a Ph.D. in particle physics from the California Institute of Technology at age 20,[8] joined the faculty there and received one of the first MacArthur awards in 1981, at age 21.

Wolfram presented a talk at the TED conference in 2010, and he was named Speaker of the Event for his 2012 talk at SXSW. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

He was educated at Eton College, but claimed to be bored and left it prematurely in 1976. He entered St John's College, Oxford at age 17 but found lectures "awful", and left in 1978 without graduating. He received a Ph.D. in particle physics from the California Institute of Technology at age 20,[8] joined the faculty there and received one of the first MacArthur awards in 1981, at age 21.

Wolfram presented a talk at the TED conference in 2010, and he was named Speaker of the Event for his 2012 talk at SXSW. In 2012 he became a fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 126 reviews

October 19, 2013

Flawed but magnificent.

It was difficult to get past Wolfram's outsized ego, but I was finally able to do so by alternately considering it sympathetically (thinking of him as desperately seeking validation) and comically (his statements of priority and the importance of his work are so over the top it's really kind of entertaining). I also had some strong issues with Wolfram's discussion on natural selection, as well as his discussion of intelligence and life (he would have benefited from a reading of Maturana and Varela). And his principle of computational equivalence doesn't seem to recognize that something like a brain in effect channels computations toward unlikely computations that simpler but "computationally equivalent" systems do not. Despite these reservations, the book is a wonder, and seeing him deftly redefine such fundamental concepts as randomness and to effectively provide a proof of Godel's theorem in the span of a few short pages using substitution systems was to see a small miracle of human thought. His discussion regarding the limitations of current mathematics (that this field has in fact only explored a small portion of "math space") was fascinating as was his exercise in translating axiomatic systems into automata-like conceptions. Beyond specific insights and deep analysis, the sheer amount of methodological work involved in Wolfram's explorations is humbling. In short, while this book and Wolfram's vision would have benefited greatly from a restraint on his egotistical ramblings, I do think this is a very important contribution that that will likely spur creative research far into the future.

It was difficult to get past Wolfram's outsized ego, but I was finally able to do so by alternately considering it sympathetically (thinking of him as desperately seeking validation) and comically (his statements of priority and the importance of his work are so over the top it's really kind of entertaining). I also had some strong issues with Wolfram's discussion on natural selection, as well as his discussion of intelligence and life (he would have benefited from a reading of Maturana and Varela). And his principle of computational equivalence doesn't seem to recognize that something like a brain in effect channels computations toward unlikely computations that simpler but "computationally equivalent" systems do not. Despite these reservations, the book is a wonder, and seeing him deftly redefine such fundamental concepts as randomness and to effectively provide a proof of Godel's theorem in the span of a few short pages using substitution systems was to see a small miracle of human thought. His discussion regarding the limitations of current mathematics (that this field has in fact only explored a small portion of "math space") was fascinating as was his exercise in translating axiomatic systems into automata-like conceptions. Beyond specific insights and deep analysis, the sheer amount of methodological work involved in Wolfram's explorations is humbling. In short, while this book and Wolfram's vision would have benefited greatly from a restraint on his egotistical ramblings, I do think this is a very important contribution that that will likely spur creative research far into the future.

October 8, 2012

this book is a mixed bag. You really have to selectively skim chapters that look interesting because you will never make it fully through. I thought some of the chapters had some very interesting results, however, and the notion of a computational universe is very intriguing and interesting.

September 9, 2010

More like "A New Kind of Ego".

Wolfram's inflated ego dominated this book so much that I found it unreadable and started skimming. What's worse is his self-aggrandizement is undeserved. Wolfram did not discover Cellular Automata, nor was he the first to see potential in them, so basically he's a pretender. In addition, others who have worked in this field have written without the egotism.

The book is short on content. There was some info there, but nothing to justify the title or the bloated length. I wonder how short the book would have been had he cut out the self-promotion?

Wolfram's inflated ego dominated this book so much that I found it unreadable and started skimming. What's worse is his self-aggrandizement is undeserved. Wolfram did not discover Cellular Automata, nor was he the first to see potential in them, so basically he's a pretender. In addition, others who have worked in this field have written without the egotism.

The book is short on content. There was some info there, but nothing to justify the title or the bloated length. I wonder how short the book would have been had he cut out the self-promotion?

October 24, 2010

Pascal is famously quoted (paraphrased):

If Stephen Wolfram worked on this tome for about a decade, I hate to see what he cut it down from.

Even for a book written so as to be approachable by non-technical lay readers, this book is excessively repetitive, and verbose, and repetitive. 200 pages in and I've yet to read anything that I could identify as shockingly new or usefully foundational; nothing that I hadn't been exposed to by authors whose own books or articles significantly predate A New Kind of Science.

It is, so far, excellent marketing material.

----------

The chapter on fundamental physics was interesting, at least for a non-physicist. However there is little else in the book than does not seem obvious from reading other authors who write better and bloviate less.

I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.

If Stephen Wolfram worked on this tome for about a decade, I hate to see what he cut it down from.

Even for a book written so as to be approachable by non-technical lay readers, this book is excessively repetitive, and verbose, and repetitive. 200 pages in and I've yet to read anything that I could identify as shockingly new or usefully foundational; nothing that I hadn't been exposed to by authors whose own books or articles significantly predate A New Kind of Science.

It is, so far, excellent marketing material.

----------

The chapter on fundamental physics was interesting, at least for a non-physicist. However there is little else in the book than does not seem obvious from reading other authors who write better and bloviate less.

February 7, 2013

This is a fun easy to read (but huge) book that gets you to think about how very simple algorithms can create fantastically complex results. The author has a giant ego, which is arguably justified but it turns many people off. The key is not to take it too seriously. Don't compare it to a revolutionary scientific tome, compare it to a Pixar movie. Let the book stimulate your brain and enjoy the sensation.

November 17, 2021

A book full of big ideas!

Key ideas:

1. Highly complex, random behaviour can emerge from extremely simple rules.

2. The Principle of Computational Equivalence: that all processes, whether they are produced by human effort or occur spontaneously in nature, can be viewed as computations.

Wolfram has done something pretty incredible with this book. He takes what seems like a very basic, simple process - cellular automaton (Wiki) - and dives deep into every nuance of behaviour, like how the outputs of the programs differ when random input conditions are used instead of simple starting conditions.

He continues to build and expand and develop ideas around these very simple programs... like oh! You can model entire number systems with these very simple programs. Oh! Here are some examples from biology and nature where simple programs are likely operating at some fundamental level. Here is how you could use cellular automaton to model material shear, or fluid flow, or crystal growth.

He drops a bombshell: Rule 110, one of these ultra-simple cellular automation patterns, e.g. one of the simplest rulesets of behaviour we can imagine, has been shown to be Turing-complete: when configured with the right inputs, this rule is capable of universal computation.

In the last few chapters, he doesn't hold back: he discusses how fundamental physics and properties like space and time can be modeled with these very basic programs, and how very simple computations - like the cellular automaton he's studied - could actually underpin everything that happens in the universe. This was like the non-fiction equivalent of a Liu Cixin novel... he keeps upping the ante and dropping mind-blowers.

Wolfram is clearly a genius - I loved the big, bold ideas, the lifetime of curiosity and investigation, and the self-aggrandizing tone (that many other reviewers couldn't stand). Despite the book's size and complexity of material, the book was written for a broad audience and that's precisely how I enjoyed it: as an amused and curious amateur.

The physical book: 5.5 pounds, 1,280 pages, super high quality printing, binding and illustrations... for $19 CAD! Not a sale, the price printed on on the back cover is $14.95 USD.

Criticisms/dislikes:

- It should have been split into two books for easier physical reading: a 850-page main body with a 430-page appendix.

- Despite the goal of writing for a broad audience, some concepts were hard to figure out. For example Wolfram does not help the reader understand what a Turing machine is (note, this is different from the more-well-known Turing Test).

- It is very long and dense... on the other hand, I think the deep exploration of the ideas is required for the main points to sink in.

Final thoughts: I was primed to like it by being exposed to the topic by a few speakers at #RWRI16. It would have been hard to pick up with no knowledge of cellular automaton, or without a compsci class. Not sure I'd broadly recommend. Difficult, but rewarding.

Key ideas:

1. Highly complex, random behaviour can emerge from extremely simple rules.

2. The Principle of Computational Equivalence: that all processes, whether they are produced by human effort or occur spontaneously in nature, can be viewed as computations.

Wolfram has done something pretty incredible with this book. He takes what seems like a very basic, simple process - cellular automaton (Wiki) - and dives deep into every nuance of behaviour, like how the outputs of the programs differ when random input conditions are used instead of simple starting conditions.

He continues to build and expand and develop ideas around these very simple programs... like oh! You can model entire number systems with these very simple programs. Oh! Here are some examples from biology and nature where simple programs are likely operating at some fundamental level. Here is how you could use cellular automaton to model material shear, or fluid flow, or crystal growth.

He drops a bombshell: Rule 110, one of these ultra-simple cellular automation patterns, e.g. one of the simplest rulesets of behaviour we can imagine, has been shown to be Turing-complete: when configured with the right inputs, this rule is capable of universal computation.

In the last few chapters, he doesn't hold back: he discusses how fundamental physics and properties like space and time can be modeled with these very basic programs, and how very simple computations - like the cellular automaton he's studied - could actually underpin everything that happens in the universe. This was like the non-fiction equivalent of a Liu Cixin novel... he keeps upping the ante and dropping mind-blowers.

Wolfram is clearly a genius - I loved the big, bold ideas, the lifetime of curiosity and investigation, and the self-aggrandizing tone (that many other reviewers couldn't stand). Despite the book's size and complexity of material, the book was written for a broad audience and that's precisely how I enjoyed it: as an amused and curious amateur.

The physical book: 5.5 pounds, 1,280 pages, super high quality printing, binding and illustrations... for $19 CAD! Not a sale, the price printed on on the back cover is $14.95 USD.

Criticisms/dislikes:

- It should have been split into two books for easier physical reading: a 850-page main body with a 430-page appendix.

- Despite the goal of writing for a broad audience, some concepts were hard to figure out. For example Wolfram does not help the reader understand what a Turing machine is (note, this is different from the more-well-known Turing Test).

- It is very long and dense... on the other hand, I think the deep exploration of the ideas is required for the main points to sink in.

Final thoughts: I was primed to like it by being exposed to the topic by a few speakers at #RWRI16. It would have been hard to pick up with no knowledge of cellular automaton, or without a compsci class. Not sure I'd broadly recommend. Difficult, but rewarding.

August 26, 2013

This is what happens when you tell an incurious child that they're really smart and never force them to interact with people brighter or more knowledgeable than them. I suppose if you cut out all of the self-indulgent filler trying to set up Wolfram as the revolutionary super-genius king of the universe solving all of science forever (a king with surprising gaps in his knowledge when it comes to, e.g., information theory), you're left with a pretty uncontroversial if very muddled and painfully unrigorous paper on cellular automata; it will also only be about fifty pages long.

So, since my opinion of*A New Kind of Science* is pretty much in line with that of every other non-lay reviewer, let's focus on the good stuff, all of which contributed to my giving it two stars rather than one:

1. The book is sufficiently impenetrable that laypersons aren't likely to read more than a few pages. The sort of people with the stamina to read the whole thing will tend to be the sort of people who will see through Wolfram's bullshit. This matters; it means the only question I'll likely ever have to answer because of this book will be what cellular automata are at all.

2. Though my edition is hardcover and I usually hate hardcover books, it's the sort of hardcover that will stay open on its own without damaging the spine or stressing the bindings.

3. The book itself does look pretty impressive, and it has a lot of plausible-looking pictures. It's perfect for leaving on a coffee table to impress non-hard-sciences guests if you're too hung-over to do the impressing yourself. That's not likely to come up for me (I don't even own a coffee table), but I appreciate that it's possible in principle.

4. It came with a bookmark.

Otherwise, though, yeah. Consider this one of those books that I read so nobody else ever has to.

So, since my opinion of

1. The book is sufficiently impenetrable that laypersons aren't likely to read more than a few pages. The sort of people with the stamina to read the whole thing will tend to be the sort of people who will see through Wolfram's bullshit. This matters; it means the only question I'll likely ever have to answer because of this book will be what cellular automata are at all.

2. Though my edition is hardcover and I usually hate hardcover books, it's the sort of hardcover that will stay open on its own without damaging the spine or stressing the bindings.

3. The book itself does look pretty impressive, and it has a lot of plausible-looking pictures. It's perfect for leaving on a coffee table to impress non-hard-sciences guests if you're too hung-over to do the impressing yourself. That's not likely to come up for me (I don't even own a coffee table), but I appreciate that it's possible in principle.

4. It came with a bookmark.

Otherwise, though, yeah. Consider this one of those books that I read so nobody else ever has to.

July 14, 2009

Wonderfully printed, easy to read, marvelous to look at, pretentious piece of quack.

It was hard to pass the Introduction and the first Chapter, when you hear the author praising himself, his own importance and why literally 'everybody' in science and why science itself is 'wrong' and did not 'see' what very self-aware author sees, but nobody else.

The book is a massive piece of rarely to find print. I was self-published by the author to assure the quality of the printing. It has many black-and-white Illustrations and pictures to accompany the text. The text, when it is not about self-praising, is rather easy to read and easy to understand for non-academics. So what is it about?

It talks about the 'big' picture in nature and science. Stephen Wolfram is a well known 'Wunderkind' in theoretical physics. He made his PhD in 1979 at the age of 20. In the mid-1980s he founded Wolfram Research Inc. and invented 'Mathematica' the leading software for technical computing and symbolic programming.

Wolframs main thesis of the book and the solution he offers are easy to understand:

This is the crux of the book, there, luckily on page 3.

If you read the 12 Chapters (846 pages plus around 250 pages of notes and additional massive Index, than it is most likely, that you do it because you like an intellectual exercise or because you love books and don't mind the many times annoying voice.

I am not going to discuss the results of such a vast amount of research and work that went into proving and verifying his idea. There are plenty of scientists from his fellow theoretical physics to mathematicians and others that reviewed and challenged Wolfram's book over the past years. There is even a great discussion a the slashdot-forum that mocks the authors writing and is funny and hilarious to read for nerds like me. May reviews and articles are online and it is easy to find them, if you want to.

Beyond the Masters Voice, this is a lovely book to look at. An artifact in these times of trash-quality publishing. It is not a masterpiece of printing. You cannot compare it with bibliophile editions. But for science books, if you have seen a physical copy of it, it is more on the upside, which tells you where we are nowadays, when it comes to print.

There is a complete online-version of this book now available for free on the Wolfram Research Homepage. The whole thing. For the curious minds.

It was hard to pass the Introduction and the first Chapter, when you hear the author praising himself, his own importance and why literally 'everybody' in science and why science itself is 'wrong' and did not 'see' what very self-aware author sees, but nobody else.

The book is a massive piece of rarely to find print. I was self-published by the author to assure the quality of the printing. It has many black-and-white Illustrations and pictures to accompany the text. The text, when it is not about self-praising, is rather easy to read and easy to understand for non-academics. So what is it about?

It talks about the 'big' picture in nature and science. Stephen Wolfram is a well known 'Wunderkind' in theoretical physics. He made his PhD in 1979 at the age of 20. In the mid-1980s he founded Wolfram Research Inc. and invented 'Mathematica' the leading software for technical computing and symbolic programming.

Wolframs main thesis of the book and the solution he offers are easy to understand:

"... very simple programs produce great complexity. For all it takes is that systems in nature operate like typical programs and then it follows that their behavior will often be complex. And the reason that such complexity is not usually seen in human artifacts is just that in building these we tend in effect to use programs that are specially chosen to give only behavior simple enough for us to be able to see that it will achieve the purposes we want" page 3

This is the crux of the book, there, luckily on page 3.

If you read the 12 Chapters (846 pages plus around 250 pages of notes and additional massive Index, than it is most likely, that you do it because you like an intellectual exercise or because you love books and don't mind the many times annoying voice.

I am not going to discuss the results of such a vast amount of research and work that went into proving and verifying his idea. There are plenty of scientists from his fellow theoretical physics to mathematicians and others that reviewed and challenged Wolfram's book over the past years. There is even a great discussion a the slashdot-forum that mocks the authors writing and is funny and hilarious to read for nerds like me. May reviews and articles are online and it is easy to find them, if you want to.

Beyond the Masters Voice, this is a lovely book to look at. An artifact in these times of trash-quality publishing. It is not a masterpiece of printing. You cannot compare it with bibliophile editions. But for science books, if you have seen a physical copy of it, it is more on the upside, which tells you where we are nowadays, when it comes to print.

There is a complete online-version of this book now available for free on the Wolfram Research Homepage. The whole thing. For the curious minds.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.

October 20, 2010

This book, at about 5,643 pages, was a fascinating read. Wolfram unveils a new way of thinking about how the world works. To this less intelligent mind it looked more like an outgrowth of the chaos movement than something entirely new but whatever it is, and however correct it is, there's no question that Wolfram did move some horizons back. Unfortunately the other message he seems to want to communicate is how amazing Stephen Wolfram is, and the ego can get in the way of the science through-out this voluminous work.

There's extensive use of graphics through-out the book which is immensely helpful to understanding what exactly it is that he's trying to say. As I understand it, Wolfram under-priced the book by personally subsidizing each copy himself in hopes that more would by it. At around $50 a pop it's not exactly cheap but based on the content I still believe this claim. Highly detailed images adorn every other page and the amount of research done is beyond question. There's a lot of repetition, but the repetition is always at least phrased in new ways as if to help us understand rather than fill space.

I'm attempting to avoid the actual scientific thought put forward in this book mostly because it takes Wolfram tens of thousand of words to lay it out and I feel almost disrespectful trying to accomplish that in a sentence or two but I suppose it would be of value to someone trying to decide if they would like to read it. The central theme is the idea of complex results emerging from very simple laws and inputs. This sounds a lot like chaos theory but the level of simplicity he demonstrates leading to truly complex results is quite astounding. There is a great deal of work gone to trying to show this theory in the realm of science, incorporating it into the fields we're familiar with. Computational equivalency plays a large role as he attempts to show that these findings aren't a dead-end but a real possibility for new discovery.

For those who are somewhat interested but not sold I would recommend finding it somewhere (library, friend's house) and reading the first chapter. That contains much of content of the rest of the book, and gives a good feeling for how it will read. If you don't like it you know to read the rest but will probably have learned some important lessons anyways in the reading. If you do then get your hands on the whole book. As a warning, this one could be tough to make it through in the time you're likely to have if you get it from a library.

There's extensive use of graphics through-out the book which is immensely helpful to understanding what exactly it is that he's trying to say. As I understand it, Wolfram under-priced the book by personally subsidizing each copy himself in hopes that more would by it. At around $50 a pop it's not exactly cheap but based on the content I still believe this claim. Highly detailed images adorn every other page and the amount of research done is beyond question. There's a lot of repetition, but the repetition is always at least phrased in new ways as if to help us understand rather than fill space.

I'm attempting to avoid the actual scientific thought put forward in this book mostly because it takes Wolfram tens of thousand of words to lay it out and I feel almost disrespectful trying to accomplish that in a sentence or two but I suppose it would be of value to someone trying to decide if they would like to read it. The central theme is the idea of complex results emerging from very simple laws and inputs. This sounds a lot like chaos theory but the level of simplicity he demonstrates leading to truly complex results is quite astounding. There is a great deal of work gone to trying to show this theory in the realm of science, incorporating it into the fields we're familiar with. Computational equivalency plays a large role as he attempts to show that these findings aren't a dead-end but a real possibility for new discovery.

For those who are somewhat interested but not sold I would recommend finding it somewhere (library, friend's house) and reading the first chapter. That contains much of content of the rest of the book, and gives a good feeling for how it will read. If you don't like it you know to read the rest but will probably have learned some important lessons anyways in the reading. If you do then get your hands on the whole book. As a warning, this one could be tough to make it through in the time you're likely to have if you get it from a library.

April 14, 2016

I have to admit that I did not read the 1000 plus pages. The idea of cellular automata is interesting, so I programmed some of his examples for fun. He is not a crank and has done serious scientific work, which I am not competent to judge. There is a measure of jealousy in some of the comments by his peers, since he has made a comfortable income from Mathematica. He bought his own Cray computer to play with. The most damaging review was, referring to the title: "What is new is not science; what is science is not new". As a layman, I sense that he is on to something here, but extends it too far. My scientist wife does not agree (that he is on to something). His arrogance is annoying, but I have worked for many scientists who have the same sense of self-importance.

January 29, 2011

I'm a big fan of balls. I should explain that. I'm a big fan of having balls, in the metaphorical sense–of having the audacity, and the knowledge to back it up, to tell absolute giants of science, that, ah, you've kind of got it all wrong.

I tested Wolfram Alpha with the question: "Just what is Stephen Wolfram's IQ?". It didn't know.

The answer, of course is: Not nearly as high as he thinks it is.

The answer, of course is: Not nearly as high as he thinks it is.

November 27, 2022

THE most accessible introduction to cellular automata - ✔️check

Arguably well deserved display of ego - ✔️check

__Noted while reading__: Like most sensible academics, Wolfram could have saved some trees by abbreviating "the new kind of science that I describe in this book" that appears all over the book to, maybe, "NKS."

**After reading**

The entire book builds up to Chapter 11, where it gives a proof of the universality of cellular automata rule 110. Then things end with increasingly speculative claims (speculations were also made in earlier chapters), several of them having been shot down ever since by mathematicians. The section on Implications for Mathematics and Its Foundations in Chapter 12 (the final chapter) feels like "the post-modernist take" on the foundations of mathematics. If the section had been rewritten with only the facts (speculations removed), it would have made a nice postscript for Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

On a personal note, I wish I had read this book earlier in my research career not only because the contents are useful, but also because of Wolfram's own account of his rather experimental (bold, adventurous, reckless?) career as a supposedly lone wolf researcher for two decades in the process of completing this book. To wit, such an approach to a research career (which I'd seen in many of my first-year physics grad school classmates, myself also having been lured into theoretical physics mainly by aesthetics) is suicidal for most of us today. Things were only different for a few decades post-WW2, when novelty in science equated opportunity. It took a living guy like Wolfram to convincingly demonstrate this — he is a genius (with early fame) AND started out "financially well equipped" (independently wealthy). If I had known about this reference point earlier, I would have planned my career to be more sustainable (which I'm still in the process of recovering).

Arguably well deserved display of ego - ✔️check

The entire book builds up to Chapter 11, where it gives a proof of the universality of cellular automata rule 110. Then things end with increasingly speculative claims (speculations were also made in earlier chapters), several of them having been shot down ever since by mathematicians. The section on Implications for Mathematics and Its Foundations in Chapter 12 (the final chapter) feels like "the post-modernist take" on the foundations of mathematics. If the section had been rewritten with only the facts (speculations removed), it would have made a nice postscript for Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

On a personal note, I wish I had read this book earlier in my research career not only because the contents are useful, but also because of Wolfram's own account of his rather experimental (bold, adventurous, reckless?) career as a supposedly lone wolf researcher for two decades in the process of completing this book. To wit, such an approach to a research career (which I'd seen in many of my first-year physics grad school classmates, myself also having been lured into theoretical physics mainly by aesthetics) is suicidal for most of us today. Things were only different for a few decades post-WW2, when novelty in science equated opportunity. It took a living guy like Wolfram to convincingly demonstrate this — he is a genius (with early fame) AND started out "financially well equipped" (independently wealthy). If I had known about this reference point earlier, I would have planned my career to be more sustainable (which I'm still in the process of recovering).

August 3, 2008

This is a really intriguing book. There is much to like about it, especially the chapter notes in the back, where he goes into a lot of historical background on the development of symbolic logic and the attempt to formalize mathematical operations in the late 1800s by Russell and Whitehead, among others. Wolfram's computational approach to analysis has some definite advantages over more conventional axiomatic methods, and has led to some powerful intuitions. However, I think the author tries to take some of his conclusions a bit farther than their usefulness merits. While the author is obviously a very gifted mathematician with a vast knowledge of the history of science and math, I find his insistence to have "changed everything" with his new approach to be a bit over the top. Wolfram was certainly at the right place at the right time to be able to open up new avenues for mathematics through the application of computers for modeling and calculation. Mathematica, the software he developed and became renowned for was truly revolutionary. This book, while an interesting read with a lot of good background material on all kinds of science related topics, doesn't seem to achieve its goal of truly revolutionizing the way science is approached.

November 23, 2012

I desperately wanted to love this book, and I'm glad I slogged through it; however, there didn't appear to be much here that hadn't been articulated better elsewhere, earlier, and with arguably more grounding. If Wolfram wanted to associate himself with these ideas he would've been better off writing a biography than this sprawling treatise. He's clearly brilliant, and part of me hopes (for the sake of the story) that we're all missing something, but as it stands A New Kind of Science is merely a book that I liked, instead of the transformational book I was promised.

August 7, 2011

Stephen Wolfram has an ego the size of Jupiter, and he does not credit contemporary researchers in the body of this epic work--but based on the clarity and completeness of the presentation I am willing to believe he personally derived and/or verified everything in it from first principles. No matter what else can be said about Wolfram, he is extraordinarily gifted. I bought this book as the "bible of cellular automata" and found much more to ponder than complexity in algorithmic art.

July 16, 2007

Amazing

Great Book

Tough Read but worth it !

A new way of thinking.

Great Book

Tough Read but worth it !

A new way of thinking.

September 30, 2020

It took me 4 years to finish it, I put it away many times, but I'm glad to say that A New Kind of Science was worth the effort. I was lucky enough to get to the physics implications just in time for Stephen Wolfram to present his theory of everything a couple of months ago. By then, I was halfway through the book, and the ideas finally started to make more sense as I began to see the implications for our everyday reality. The coincidence of Wolfram coming out of relative obscurity to present his new ideas was perfect as it put a welcome new perspective on the main concepts of computational irreducibility and computational equivalence, which made the latter half of the book a much quicker read.

In A New Kind of Science, Wolfram uses hundreds of beautiful representations of cellular automata (which are only a glimpse of the millions that were analysed) to illustrate the fact that complex behaviour is not correlated to complex rules. Moreover, he continues to show that whenever simple rules are able to generate complex behaviour, they tend to be computationally equivalent ie they are equal in their computational sophistication and could in theory be swapped. One of the more thought-provoking consequences is the fact that computational irreducibility is not rare but rather frequent in complex systems, which puts a boundary on what science can and cannot achieve.

Aside from the core ideas, which are impressive on their own, the amount of work that has gone into this is amazing. The book is filled with beautiful representations of cellular automata in all of their forms, each of them simple and elegant images of all sorts of complex behaviour. I can't say that it reads as a page turner however. The dry and rational writing style is very consistent throughout the 850 pages, which explains why it took me so long to finish it. All in all however, and even though it may take some time, A New Kind of Science is a perfect example of the saying that books can change your point of view. I'm glad I was patient enough for that experience.

In A New Kind of Science, Wolfram uses hundreds of beautiful representations of cellular automata (which are only a glimpse of the millions that were analysed) to illustrate the fact that complex behaviour is not correlated to complex rules. Moreover, he continues to show that whenever simple rules are able to generate complex behaviour, they tend to be computationally equivalent ie they are equal in their computational sophistication and could in theory be swapped. One of the more thought-provoking consequences is the fact that computational irreducibility is not rare but rather frequent in complex systems, which puts a boundary on what science can and cannot achieve.

Aside from the core ideas, which are impressive on their own, the amount of work that has gone into this is amazing. The book is filled with beautiful representations of cellular automata in all of their forms, each of them simple and elegant images of all sorts of complex behaviour. I can't say that it reads as a page turner however. The dry and rational writing style is very consistent throughout the 850 pages, which explains why it took me so long to finish it. All in all however, and even though it may take some time, A New Kind of Science is a perfect example of the saying that books can change your point of view. I'm glad I was patient enough for that experience.

October 31, 2020

I have had a strong interest in cellular automata for many years, yet I have never read one of the most popular books about it, Stephen Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science”. I already knew it was a bit controversial, but I didn’t expect it to make me feel so mixed. In chapters and sections where he presents the images and data of the simple systems, I am very interested and invested. But in chapters where he applies the discoveries, the combination of the overuse of ‘Anticipation of Objection’ rhetoric and understatements of the field of science can make me facepalm in frustration. For example, paragraphs of this form happen often: “One would think that … However, with my new intuition…”. This is ok if it is used a couple times in the beginning, but it is headache-inducing when he repeats this over and over again throughout the entire book.

Despite thesis-breaking flaws throughout his biology and physics chapters, sometimes after I read a bit of the book, I feel an intense curiosity to explore some of the systems. The shock factor of chaos from simple rules is completely absent for me due to years of prior knowledge and due to Wolfram’s over-emphasization of their importance, but I did gain some new insights about universality and computation.

I would recommend the book without certain chapters in it, but hidden in these are some interesting systems, so skip small sections when you feel that Wolfram is too arrogant, or misunderstanding fields of science for his own benefit. Some chapters are 5 stars, while others are 1 star, so I give the book 3 stars.

Despite thesis-breaking flaws throughout his biology and physics chapters, sometimes after I read a bit of the book, I feel an intense curiosity to explore some of the systems. The shock factor of chaos from simple rules is completely absent for me due to years of prior knowledge and due to Wolfram’s over-emphasization of their importance, but I did gain some new insights about universality and computation.

I would recommend the book without certain chapters in it, but hidden in these are some interesting systems, so skip small sections when you feel that Wolfram is too arrogant, or misunderstanding fields of science for his own benefit. Some chapters are 5 stars, while others are 1 star, so I give the book 3 stars.

November 7, 2020

skimmed. beautiful TOME in the tradition of euclid and newton

I appreciate Wolfram's dissatisfaction with existing formations of knowledge, and I respect how far he went by himself in tracing his common intuition to numerous and unexpected conclusions!

I appreciate Wolfram's dissatisfaction with existing formations of knowledge, and I respect how far he went by himself in tracing his common intuition to numerous and unexpected conclusions!

January 8, 2021

I liked this book then I got less enchanted with it later and now I finally got what Wolfram was getting at and became re-enchanted. Wolfram in this book shows how complexity can come out of multiple different mathematical building blocks. The diversity of options that he shows that converge to complexity, the makings of life, and conscious observers are myriad. This matters because what it means is that the substrate or mathematical forms for complexity may not matter. To get to conscious observers many a substrate at base reality may suffice. This means in Max Tegmark's Level Four Multiverse aka Plato's heaven of Mathematical forms there is a multitude of ways to get complexity, life, and conscious observers from very different fundamental blocks of mathematical forms This happy thought may have driven Wolfram to build the scaffolding of his case that all forms may lead to conscious observers or at least there be a lot of ways to get them in the level four multiverse. The case isn't baldly stated but certainly implied in this 1200 page long but surprisingly easily digestible tome (I am not kidding the reading goes fast the material is amenable to a mildly curious STEM fan). Re-enchanted again. Good stuff.

Here is Stephen Wolfram giving a lecture on his work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoDZK...

Here is Stephen Wolfram giving a lecture on his work.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoDZK...

December 26, 2017

A big book in every sense of the word. After the advance praise, I expected perhaps even more but this will surely be counted among the more important books. Although it is easy to exaggerate the value of a new thought. And if there is one thing you cannot blame the author for it is false modesty.

So what is the new kind of science? The main thought is that complexity arises out of very simple premises. And arising from a simple initial state. Wolfram’s main metaphor (which really is the whole picture) is the behavior of cell automata. There is a tremendous amount of automata that are analyzed hundreds and thousands of prints. You certainly get the impression that the guy just must be mad or a genius. So it is more than just a metaphor. At least I think he gives the impression that the universe can, in fact, be viewed as one big cell automata, cells building patterns in a discrete time and space. (Which would substantially support my own view of a Tractatus like world, by the way.)

The whole 20 years research leads Wolfram to formulate his Principle of Computational Equivalence that states “that all processes, whether they are produced by human effort or occur spontaneously in nature, can be viewed as computations.”

This to me seems a rather trivial basic truth but the author is very impressed by it and believes that it has richer implications than any other law in science.

This is a point where one can have some doubts because the practical implications in truth seem rather lame.

An important consequence of the principle is the thesis of Computational irreducibility. Science, Wolfram says, traditionally tries to reduce phenomena, for example by finding formulas to predict some certain behavior e.g. in astronomy. But the principle and its implication state that the description of a system that is not obviously simple (for example repetitive) must be as complex as the described system.

So what is the new kind of science? The main thought is that complexity arises out of very simple premises. And arising from a simple initial state. Wolfram’s main metaphor (which really is the whole picture) is the behavior of cell automata. There is a tremendous amount of automata that are analyzed hundreds and thousands of prints. You certainly get the impression that the guy just must be mad or a genius. So it is more than just a metaphor. At least I think he gives the impression that the universe can, in fact, be viewed as one big cell automata, cells building patterns in a discrete time and space. (Which would substantially support my own view of a Tractatus like world, by the way.)

The whole 20 years research leads Wolfram to formulate his Principle of Computational Equivalence that states “that all processes, whether they are produced by human effort or occur spontaneously in nature, can be viewed as computations.”

This to me seems a rather trivial basic truth but the author is very impressed by it and believes that it has richer implications than any other law in science.

This is a point where one can have some doubts because the practical implications in truth seem rather lame.

An important consequence of the principle is the thesis of Computational irreducibility. Science, Wolfram says, traditionally tries to reduce phenomena, for example by finding formulas to predict some certain behavior e.g. in astronomy. But the principle and its implication state that the description of a system that is not obviously simple (for example repetitive) must be as complex as the described system.

March 19, 2009

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.

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.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.

February 5, 2015

The exiting book "A New Kind of Science"is written by the worldly known scientist Stephen Wolfram. The book talks about computer science.In the book he shows his unexpected result. Wolfram uses a remarkable way of problems in science, explains the origins of physical systems,and the difficulty of biology. The book is very clear and it is illustrated by a lot of original pictures. He also explains us how the language can be changed in a computer language using just a few lines of code.

The book is really interesting. It can help people who want to be scientists. The book is part of physical science. It is a very interesting book. The author said that this kind of science should have its own new branch. The book is very useful if someone wants to do a project about computer science. It also can help us design an experiment. As one can see, thus interesting non-fiction story is very well developed with facts.

This interesting book would recommend to any person that likes science. First, this book would be recommended to all the people who like to know more about computers and softwares. It is a little hard so I recommend it to the 9th and 10th graders who are interested in new technology. As one can see, this interesting book can be recommended to people who like science.

The book is really interesting. It can help people who want to be scientists. The book is part of physical science. It is a very interesting book. The author said that this kind of science should have its own new branch. The book is very useful if someone wants to do a project about computer science. It also can help us design an experiment. As one can see, thus interesting non-fiction story is very well developed with facts.

This interesting book would recommend to any person that likes science. First, this book would be recommended to all the people who like to know more about computers and softwares. It is a little hard so I recommend it to the 9th and 10th graders who are interested in new technology. As one can see, this interesting book can be recommended to people who like science.

May 7, 2008

Wow, this is a huge book. It's fascinating and infuriating and did I mention huge. There are two main issues I have with the book. The first is the way that Wolfram dismisses natural selection as a significant force in evolution. He argues that biological systems couldn't possibly become optimized for a purpose based on this kind of random search. It's an argument that's close to Intelligent Design... organisms aren't perfect, and they're not in any sense trying to be. The second issue is the supposed power of universal computation. Wolfram makes the case that universal computation arises in diverse systems and is far more common than one would suspect. He goes on from there to claim that "simple" universality explains all sorts of phenomena including human intelligence . But a universal computer isn't sufficient. The face that lots of systems can be considered computationally equivalent doesn't tell you anything about the program, nor does it tell you if the system can run the program in a reasonable amount of time.

June 30, 2014

An excruciatingly long book, this one. I have immense respect for Wolfram's accomplishments, but jeez, this exploration of cellular automata and simple programs as an answer to everything knocked him down several notches. I was excited to find the book at a Half Price Books priced far less than half. That was the best part of the interaction. Five and a quarter pounds of book is tough to lug around and many hours of lost time for little gain make for an "it was okay" rating. I guess I am still impressed somewhat - anyone who can spend so much time watching patterns emerge from repetition deserves a nod for persistence.

March 13, 2009

A bold attempt at revolutionizing scientific thought in the context of a computational world. Wolfram partially succeeds in this mission, though his arrogance seems to get in the way of his message, rather than support it. But in some ways it reminded me of Fuller's Synergetics. Not a long read, and well worth it.

January 2, 2013

Fascinating material from cover to cover. The theory of emergent order, fleshed out. Must read (at least the first chapter or so, which was written for the layman) for libertarians! I also recommend the author's lectures at the Singularity Institute, which took place at the Singularity Summit. Very interesting stuff.

April 16, 2013

Interesting book for the mathematically inclined. The writing style can be tedious (often repetitive), not so much because it may be technical in nature.

A follow up would be interesting, to see how much has been accomplished pursuing the new kind of science the author propses...

Overall, I am glad I read it.

A follow up would be interesting, to see how much has been accomplished pursuing the new kind of science the author propses...

Overall, I am glad I read it.

August 26, 2009

Finally a way out of the valley of densely static scientific algorithms is explored. And the results look very promising. This looks like the work of a modern Einstein. http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/149

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