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A New Kind of Science

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  1,992 ratings  ·  110 reviews
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 sp ...more
Hardcover, 1264 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Wolfram Media (first published June 1st 1997)
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Mark Longo
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 read
Sep 09, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 lengt
Andrej Karpathy
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: science, abandoned
Pascal is famously quoted (paraphrased):

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
Warren Mcpherson
Feb 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: ideas
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. ...more
Alex Covic
Jun 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: science students, physicians, mathematicians, computer-nerds, hackers,
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Koen Crolla
May 31, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: textbooks
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 u ...more
Oct 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
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 ...more
Aug 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Chris Reid
Nov 23, 2012 rated it liked it
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 ...more
Val Delane
Jun 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Brett Peppler
Jan 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jul 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math_physics
Great Book
Tough Read but worth it !
A new way of thinking.
Jun 27, 2009 marked it as to-read
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.
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-library
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 ...more
Oct 31, 2020 rated it liked it
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’ rhet ...more
Danish Shabbir
Nov 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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!
Paige McLoughlin
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 obser ...more
Nov 29, 2007 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ezzaoudi Ghalia
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 i
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 su ...more
Jim Razinha
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
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 i ...more
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Apr 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Otis Morgan
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book makes advanced Math concepts accessible to anyone who has been through Jr. High School. In some ways it changed my concept of how the world works. Interactions between simple systems can create complex and interesting results.
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
a very ambitious work proposing a new kind of worldview
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
If you're a mega-nerd, you will like this book. Even a brief skimming will spark some interesting associations between nature and programming. ...more
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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 cla

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“It is perhaps a little humbling to discover that we as humans are in effect computationally no more capable than cellular automata with very simple rules. But the Principle of Computational Equivalence also implies that the same is ultimately true of our whole universe.

So while science has often made it seem that we as humans are somehow insignificant compared to the universe, the Principle of Computational Equivalence now shows that in a certain sense we are at the same level as it is. For the principle implies that what goes on inside us can ultimately achieve just the same level of computational sophistication as our whole universe.”
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