# A New Kind of Science

by Stephen WolframISBN-10: 1579550088

ISBN-13: 9781579550080

Pub. Date: 05/14/2002

Publisher: Wolfram Media, Incorporated

This long-awaited work from one of the world's most respected scientists presents a series of dramatic discoveries never before made public. Starting from a collection of simple computer experiments—illustrated in the book by striking computer graphics—Wolfram shows how their unexpected results force a whole new way of looking at the operation of our

… See more details below## Overview

This long-awaited work from one of the world's most respected scientists presents a series of dramatic discoveries never before made public. Starting from a collection of simple computer experiments—illustrated in the book by striking computer graphics—Wolfram shows how their unexpected results force a whole new way of looking at the operation of our universe.

Wolfram uses his approach to tackle a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science: from the origin of the Second Law of thermodynamics, to the development of complexity in biology, the computational limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, and the interplay between free will and determinism.

Written with exceptional clarity, and illustrated by more than a thousand original pictures, this seminal book allows scientists and non-scientists alike to participate in what promises to be a major intellectual revolution.

**About the Author:**

Stephen Wolfram was born in London and educated at Eton, Oxford and Caltech. He received his PhD in theoretical physics in 1979 at the age of 20, and in the early 1980s made a series of discoveries which launched the field of complex systems research. Starting in 1986 he created Mathematica, the primary software system now used for technical computing worldwide, and the tool which made *A New Kind of Science* possible. Wolfram is the founder and CEO of Wolfram Research, Inc.—the world's leading technical software company.

## Product Details

- ISBN-13:
- 9781579550080
- Publisher:
- Wolfram Media, Incorporated
- Publication date:
- 05/14/2002
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Pages:
- 1196
- Sales rank:
- 473,490
- Product dimensions:
- 8.14(w) x 9.70(h) x 2.47(d)

## Table of Contents

PREFACE |

THE KEY IDEAS OF A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE |

1 The Foundations for a New Kind of Science |

2 The Crucial Experiment |

3 The World of Simple Programs |

4 Systems Based on Numbers |

5 Two Dimensions and Beyond |

6 Starting from Randomness |

7 Mechanisms in Programs and Nature |

8 Implications for Everyday Systems |

9 Fundamental Physics |

10 Processes of Perception and Analysis |

11 The Notion of Computation |

12 The Principle of Computational Equivalence |

NOTES ON ALL CHAPTERS |

INDEX |

## Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Seriously, this is a well written book. Yes. Wolfram's ego is large enough to sustain it. Yes, the book does not give enough credit where credit is due. And sadly, the most interesting chapter of the book (on physics) is also the shortest and most likely the weakest. It'd been spectacular if he had done some more simulations on mimicking quantum behavior, from a discrete Cellular Automata point of view, but he chickened out.

I am from academia, so I am sympathetic to those who claim that Wolfram ignores established research. Its true, he does. But this does not lessen the strength of the contents of this book.

If he had taken a bit more care in citing established research, I am sure that'd have smoothed over much of the negative reaction from the established people. In a way, its understandable. If your only job is to have your journal entry cited by others in other journal entries, then it hurts like heck to have some one else take claim for what you have done.

Ultimately, he will be ignored by the established scientists, but that won't matter very much. Popularized science, still IS science. Even away from a research lab.

Wolfram's Principle of Computational Equivalence is stated in vague terms; attempts by several professional mathematician colleagues of mine to locate a precise statement of the principle met without success. Here is an attempt to restate the principle; it rests on the assumption that any physical process can be 'viewed as a computation'. This is ancient and goes back at least to the mechanism of the 18th Century. The Principle, as far as we could determine, is that any two physical processes that aren't 'obviously simple' are of 'equivalent complexity.' For example, the physical process of hitting a golf ball already contains within it the computational 'complexity' and 'sophistication' of your favorite universal partial function of classical recursion theory. These are vague claims; moreover, attempts to make them more precise seem to falsify them.

One of the difficulties rests with the interpretation of 'obviously simple', not to mention that the term 'complexity' isn't defined (it appears to be defined 'ostensively' by eyeballing the runs of numerous cellular automata), and no notion of 'equivalence' is offered. Do we throw away the Chomsky hierarchy? Programming languages recognizable by pushdown automata (Mathematica is an example of a context-free language; such languages are precisely those recognized by pushdown automata) but not by deterministic fnite-state automata are arguably less 'obviously simple' than regular languages; do we then conclude,on the basis of the Principle of Computational Equivalence, that the Chomsky Hierarchy collapses on the basis of this perceived added complexity? The principle of computational equivalence is too vague to be of scientific use; if it conflates the levels of any of the various known hierarchical classifications of computational complexity we have, then it cannot be true. No examples of physical systems of 'equivalent computational sophistication' are presented, even though it is asserted that systems which represent 'universal' computational processes abound in nature.

Wolfram might argue that I just don't get it; I argue that he just didn't state it, and this is a systemic problem with this intellectually soft book. Wolfram appears not to want to dirty his hands with precise definitions and statements of his 'revolutionary' principles, and would appear to want to leave the enunciation and development of his new science to the next echelon of followers.

Nevertheless, the book can be sporadically inadvertently amusing. I recommend it as a cure for insomnia.