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A New Kind of Science

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,671 Ratings  ·  90 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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Dear FSM, what a rambling mess of a book. This review is going to be longer than usual for me, as I have a lot of bile to get out of my system.

As I read through the first several pages, I was bemused by the author's arrogant and lofty tone. I was willing to give him a bit of credit, if he had any logical backup behind it.

Finished the introduction. The book makes clear its intentions: to analyze and reduce complex phenomenon to simple mathematical representations. Not bad, but hardly revolutiona
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jul 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: math_physics
Great Book
Tough Read but worth it !
A new way of thinking.
O Danny
Feb 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Math Majors, Science fans
Recommended to O by: used book seller
As a precursor to the Wolfram Alpha search engine, this book could open the door to computational knowledge generation.
Oleksandr Nikitin
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
the main objection is that it isn't science, like in "scientific method", but a very nice and accessible overview of various math phenomena nevertheless
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Interesting, but certainly only for the math/science geek in me. I did find the tone a bit pretentious, that the little thing the author discovered will revolutionize the entire world.
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.
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
a very ambitious work proposing a new kind of worldview
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.
Jan 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Some nice interesting stuff, but REALLY verbose and self-important.
Apr 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Thick reading and repetitive, but necessary reading. Plus, what he's describing may be describing the underlying pattern or all reality. Cellular automata are everywhere.
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Goodreads Librari...: How about index pages? 8 204 Oct 22, 2017 09:25AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Add cover from Amazon 4 13 Oct 20, 2017 12:52PM  
  • The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation
  • The Fractal Geometry of Nature
  • The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution
  • Infinity and the Mind: The Science and Philosophy of the Infinite
  • The Sciences of the Artificial
  • Computers and Intractability: A Guide to the Theory of NP-Completeness
  • Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
  • The Mathematical Theory of Communication
  • Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order
  • Networks: An Introduction
  • The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing
  • Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information
  • The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing's Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine
  • Surreal Numbers
  • Complexity: A Guided Tour
  • Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern
  • An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise
  • The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution

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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
More about Stephen Wolfram...

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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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