A New Kind of Science

A New Kind of Science

3.6 30
by Stephen Wolfram

ISBN-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

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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.

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Product Details

Wolfram Media, Incorporated
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
8.14(w) x 9.70(h) x 2.47(d)

Table of Contents

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

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A New Kind of Science 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not read this book. Only just heard about it and checking this site.I am just a human. Wow! I thought I was the only one who knew. Great ready humanity. It's time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A New Kind of Science is not for the timid. To truly appreciate the research of Stephen Wolfram, it is necessary to really think about what this book has to say and what it means for contemporary science and technology. It is also necessary to read the book as actively as possible, perhaps even performing the experiments on a computer. The major tenet of NKS is that the scientific community should implement a systematic study of computational models (what Wolfram refers to as 'simple programs') for their own sake. Why? Because not only do the decepitively simple rules of these programs give rise to great complexity, deeming them quite interesting study on their own, but their behavior is of enormous consequence for pure and applied science and mathematics, as well as philosophy and the social sciences. Wolfram's style is conducive to both the general reader and the seasoned expert in computational science. He elucidates very profound concepts strikingly well, yet maintains a discipline characteristic of a scientific journal. One should not be discouraged by the massive size of the book. Much of it is composed of diagrams of the simple programs that Wolfram has studied, and the Notes at the end can stand on their own. As an enthusiastic member of the NKS community, I can highly recommend this book not only to those interested in science and mathematics, but also to those who enjoy novel philosophy and methodology.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found a lot of his points very interesting. Not new in the theories, but the examples themselves. He spent FAR too much time talking about "if simple underlying rules are inputted, you will get complex irregular results". I swear, he must have put that in 5 to 10 times. I just wish he had more scientific information packed in and less pointless wandering in the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Being 13 years old, I was so bored with what my teacher was teaching me. I decided to pick up this book. I did and to my amazement I understand every thought Stephen Wolfran has. This book is not only a gateway to a new world but a place to find that you are not alone in thinking that you can change the science of, well, science. Now I am grateful for my teacher. She is the one that had me pick up this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book from Barnes Noble. Finally finished reading. Here are my two cents.____ A great book that explains how the Universe came to being. If a single thought created our Universe, certainly the thought did not take 5 days to complete. A single and simple event can, over time produce profound effects. While physicists still trying to figure out how a simple program can lead to such complexity due to the immense time involved in the iteration phase ¿ the more practical application of the book is in business of managing complexity.____ Personally, I have been designing Business Intelligence and Decision Support systems to improve Business Agility for many years. The book provides the fundamental insight to observed effects in global economy and has helped me to focus on specific architecture of businesses to enhance agility from adaptive demand forecasting to strategic enterprise management. I am sure the book can illuminate the path to new drug discovery, gene manipulation or anti-terrorism systems too. ____ I highly recommend the book to those who are designing or solving highly complex co-dependent, multi-variate, time-series systems or issues.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a physicist who has been always impressed by the similar behaviors of far different phenomena and the similar mathematical expressions of many physical laws (e.g., the inverse square laws). These similarities suggest unexplored counterintuitive simplicity of nature that shows up in the mysterious complexity of this world. Stephen Wolfram considers the achievements in the understanding of complexity and offers filled with fruitful analogies and concepts story. New findings usually irritate the believers in the current paradigms. The cutting edge explorations and discoveries presented in A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE will create a healing irritation and will set the stage for the science to come. This interesting and thought provoking book will sharpen your perception and will put you in a proper state of mind to comprehend the incredibly simple picture of the universe, which will be born from the new science. I vigorously recommend this five star book as an indispensable basic title for everyone's library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stephen Wolfram has presented a gem to the world. I appreciate it. He writes in plain English - a novelty. It is easy to follow. The Notes provide even more food for thought for those who want to go further. For those who indeed demand even more, I suggest, "Ok, he has showed you how to do it. Now quit complaining and go do it yourself; he has been up all night!" It is a wonderful book. I am delighted that he stayed up all those long hours doing it. I recommend it enthusiastically.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is no question that Stephen Wolfram has made a contribution to scientific knowledge with his book. However, I would not characterize it as a new kind of science. The theme that runs through his book is that complexity in nature can come from simple programs that run through a large number of iterations. Recently, I gathered a broad range of information for my book "The Meaning of Life If Life is a Journey You Need Good Directions" that looks at what truths we can learn from science about reality. Based on this study, I can say that Wolfram is far from breaking new ground. Daniel C. Dennett introduced the same basic ideas in his book ¿Darwins Dangerous Idea¿ in 1995. In fact, Dennett uses as his reference Charles Darwin¿s ideas on evolution published more than 130 years ago. According to Dennett it is possible to have ¿design without intelligence¿. In other words, a simple algorithm, another word for a program, can produce complex results without the system that is running the program having any prior intention of the results that are eventually produced. In his book Wolfram wonders how science could have taken so long to see things that he now sees as being very intuitive. Dennett answers this question as well. According to Dennett it is human nature to believe that nature works the same way that humans think. Humans are the first species to have the capacity to anticipate the results of its actions. Humans can make causal connections between actions and their outcomes. According to the anthropromorphic principle humans assume that any higher power (God) that created and controls nature works under the same principles. However according to Darwin and Dennett nature is simply adapting to changes in the environment as they occur. Wolfram states science has assumed that laws of nature were complex because we experience complexity in nature. In one sense believing that their is complexity in nature gives us a sense of comfort because we assume that something must be in control of all the complexity. If we concede that everything is subject to random events and simple programs, we also have to concede that the world is a chaotic place. Wolfram further states that he has spent the better part of his life working on this book and we have to thank him for his efforts, because he has run the computer simulations and analyzed the data to provide conclusive proof that it is fact possible to have ¿design without intelligence¿. Furthermore, he has developed a set of principles that can be used by scientists, which could be characterized as a new scientific method. For example, when looking at a system try to reduce it to the simplest level possible. Without getting to the most simple level we may be incorporating assumptions in our study, which we may assume are intuitive, but once the simulations are run we see that are assumptions are not as intuitive as we thought. Wolfram¿s book is a very long book, 846 pages without the notes, and then another 350 pages of notes. All of this information is provided to document how science, nature, etc. conform to his basic concepts. However, I am surprised why Wolfram thinks that these ideas should be such a revelation. It is generally accepted by science that the universe started about 14 billion years ago simply as energy. All subsequent matter and complexity in nature flowed from this simple beginning. Thus, we have known for some time that all complexity has flowed from this original simplicity. Any laws that we develop today should only be a natural description of this evolutionary process. Anything else would be a contradiction in logic, at least to the extent that our limit capacity to understand nature would indicate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a mathematician who continually irritated his professors with observations that Wolfram perfectly articulates: today's mathemetics is only capable of solving simple problems, and completely incapable of dealing with complexity. Wolfram proves that today's constraint-based mathematics is irrelevant to solving the complex problems. I predict that a hundred years from now, Wolfram will be regarded as the father of that real breakthrough we've all felt was just beyond our grasp. He proves that "computational equivalence" and "universality" can be achieved with simple systems. What he doesn't do, and what terribly interests me, is push the "irreducibility" envelope. I believe a whole set of analytical tools will emerge from A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE that will stagger even Mr. Wolfram. Time will tell.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The controversy over Wolfram's A New Kind of Science is an invention of journalists (or, as one reviewer aptly put it, 'dilletantes') and others mostly outside of the scientific community who insist that no-one could possibly have the background to read and absorb Wolfram's opus well enough to critique it; surely such comments are motivated by petty professional jealousy passing for understanding. It's unfortunate that this tome was written by someone so wealthy; the wealthy have authority--even scientific authority, it would appear. Here's the effect that Wolfram's work is having on science: professional scientists, mathematicians and philosophers are now expected to weigh in at cocktail parties on Wolfram. Uninformed snap judgements about who is open-minded and who is a petty, mean-spirited calculus-mongering dinosaur will be determined on the basis of one's attitude towards Wolfram; body language will be scrutinized for signs of insincerity, or worse. Any criticism, however mild and however justified, will be characterized as stentorian; platitudinous, patronizing and self-congratulatory cautions to ignore Wolfram's habitual self-aggrandizment will be uttered to those who obviously haven't understood the master's message, whatever it is. Wolfram's text has been a bonanza for the scientific put-down artist (the individual whose chief contribution to the world is the put-down). The foregoing more or less characterizes the effect Wolfram's book is having on the scientific enterprise, aside from encouraging computer experimentation, here and there. At least the designers of Maple (a competitor of Mathematica) have had the good sense not to respond to A New Kind of Science with their own textbook on cellular automata.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted to like this book, I wanted to discover in cellular automata new revolutionary concepts relating to the many subfields of biology, physics and mathematics. Instead I was forced to read hundreds of pages of Wolfram's personal opinions about what plants, humans and the universe really are. Wolfram had the making of an absolutely specatcular book on cellular automata that would have revolutionized THAT field and thus percolated into many others. Instead, he overreached his own understanding to explain things like free will based on a principle proved using assumptions and guesses. I have no problem with hubris so long as its justified; Wolfram's is not.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is beautifully put together. Everything from the graphics, the fonts and even the layout of the paragraphs all point to a nearly obsessed writer who delves into the wacky world of Getting Everything Just So(tm).

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.

Guest More than 1 year ago
Many assertions in this book are true. Most of the false ones are the ones that claim that he has understood more and deeper than everyone else: inasmuch as his observations are true they are well-known, and inasmuch as they are new they are uninteresting technical details (I don't believe I learned anything from this book, and I certainly don't mean to suggest that I consider myself the exception.) He keeps protesting that his discovery is slightly different from anything in the literature (e.g. with reference to chaos theory): he seems to have totally missed the point that the reason it's different in academic text (e.g. complexity of functions rather than his ``complexity of single computations'') is because *that's our only way to make it mathematically rigorous*. Yes, it is a slightly counterintuitive technical device, and if he had a way to make complexity of a single output rigorous, we'd probably care. But he waffles about complexity being ``intuitively obvious''. Geez, we knew that. So he's just writing 1000 pages about the brick wall that everyone else got round decades ago. Actually all those pages about himself and mind-numbing details of all possible cellular automata and what colour sweater he was wearing when he discovered his bogus Principle That's Better Than Everyone Else's Principle remind me somehow of the worst kind of undergraduate thesis. If it weren't for the hype and hubris I'd have given it 2 stars and merely said: some people will probably enjoy some pages, but I can recommend much better books for your time and money.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a fresh outlook on science. Yes, it does have a couple faults such as its enormous size and dogmatic writing...but all in all I found this a very good book. It's not afraid to break some rules. It points out that biology may be a better microscope than physics to view our world.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wolfram's A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE, as well as his life, will become one of the definitive notions of the Americana Time Renaissance. All the bad mouths should shut up tight or go chew some old Certs. Wolfram's book will earmark the dynamic personnel of the foremost and daring-most thinkers and practitioners of our time, he and his science belong to the future, which will no doubt be marveled by generations to come. Future historians, anthropologists and geologists will denote our time 'The Wolfram Era'. Those who are claimed or self-claimed to be 'intellectuals' but refuse to read or appreciate Wolfram are simply faint-hearted, kidding, fooling and cheating lazy worms; Time will ignore them without a burp. Congratulations Stephen Wolfram, you've moved mountains!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lots of nice pictures but very little that was new and interesting. It does not live up to the hype.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Wolfram finally came out with his long awaited New Kind of Science I expected an uproar of the know-it-alls. The ink is barely dry on his book and I see from the (very quick)reviews of all the 'experts' that my suspicions were correct. I have been using Mathematica since 1988, about the time when it came out. I have used it a great deal in my profession (physics,EE) and for a hobby. I have begun to run some of the experiments (in Mathematica) from the 2nd and 3d chapters and have had a lot of fun. Maybe it's time to get off our high academic horse and review our take on things. Wolfram is a maverick and has decided that maybe he doesn't feel like playing the staid old game of being judged by his 'peers'. He made his millions already (good for him!) to which I say to the stuffy academics...how much have you made bringing 'your genius' to humanity? I will not include the odd dry tome you wrote, long forgotten, that is now collecting dust in a dark research lab's library. Having worked in those labs for many years and working with that ilk I have seen them all. I find Wolfram's book refreshing. A kick in the staid scientific communities butt, long overdo. Even my wife enjoyed his new definition on hubris. She found it refreashing. It is waaaay too early to be a judge on this work. I like Wolfram's take on the way he has presented his work. 'Here it is.' 'This is what I found.' 'If you don't like it..well there's the door and don't let it hit you in the posterior on your way out.'
Guest More than 1 year ago
Perhaps it's unfair to this author, but the quality is poor and it lacks the scientific evidence to make it a great book. There are simply to many details without a back up! I would suggest this book only if there aren't any other interesting books at present!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not a brilliant work but by no means average. Wolfram takes a look into the subject matter from his life experience point of view, then tries dearly to merge that with traditional norms but finds himself struggling with the hard facts of science. Delusion cannot be mixed with the proven no matter how abased the proven is. I am certain science will progress in the traditional sense without Wolframs attempts to change what cannot be. I recommend another author with similar patterns but right track.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was ready to purchase Wolfram's book the day it was published, having downloaded the preview chapter from his web site. But after sitting with it for 15 minutes in the book-shop I decided to decline this long-awaited tome. The comparison with the development of Calculus is wishful thinking. Newton solved problems his contemporaries could not touch, first translating his arguments into classical geometry, and concealing his innovative new mathematical methods. Wolfram solves no new problems, adds nothing to methods that are already widely understood, and merely paints hopeful metaphors at what might one day be possible. Newton presented a complete and coherent new theory of gravitation. We are still waiting to see if any startlingly effective models can be built using the tools of CA.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been very very enthusiastic to see this book for almost 2 years now and I ordered it on the same day it was out. I found the book very very disappointing and far far from being revolutionary. I am an applied mathematician with a very good knowledge of non-linear science, chaos and complexity. Despite Mr. Wolfram's claim in his earlier interview on the fact that cellular automata (CA) represent about 20 percent of the examples in the book, a quick browsing throughout the book shows that more than 80 percent of the book is about CA. This book is not about A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE; it is actually about not-so-new science of CA. New or old science, one has to set terminologies and definitions so people understand exact meaning of terms used in the theory. This book brings up the concept of 'Complexity' as often as thousand times but the author doesn't bother to define what complexity means and more importantly how to MEASURE it. It is scientifically (New or Old) improper to decide about the degree of complexity by looking at the some pictures. One cannot build an intellectual structure based on some visual intuitions that occur frequently in the book. It also sounds very superficial to explain the shapes of leaves and the patterns on a mollusk shell by employing CA and claiming that CA are capable of explaining the whole Universe. Science has a lot less concern about the shapes and visual forms of phenomena than their internal structures. Hadn't I known Mr. Wolfram's background in fundamental science I may have thought of him a loner crank. I would like to make the following brief comments about the book: 1- The book is extremely repetitive.... ' A simple rule implies complexity' X 1000 2- The author's narcissistic viewpoint is highly repellent. 3- The book lacks conventional references to prior work that is related to the author's narcissism, I guess. Stephen Wolfram may have been a genius in the past but he is now an ordinary man (non-scientist) with many wrong ideas. I am going to return the book and as before find some satisfaction in some more modest science.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is simultaneously extremely comprehensive and extremely superficial. It reminds me of Wells' tome which I read as a child. Fascinating, but not for professional historians. Comprehensive because the author touches on almost every topic anyone working with cellular automata or dynamical systems theory (not to mention biology, physics, cosmology, ...) has ever heard of, usually with some comment as to how it has related to his own personal experience. Given the apparent accuracy (but not always in exact detail} of all that is surveyed, one could get a great general science education here, just by having the book handy on a reference shelf. Superficial because the author has never worked his ideas out in detail, concentrating instead on a mixture of grand panorama and hours of staring at a computer screen. And entrusting too much to the efforts of asssistants. The one thing which is indeed spelled out in detail, and well worth the price of the book (for specialists in such things), is the outline of how Rule 110 might perhaps be regarded as being Universal (in reality, the whole secret probably lies in just one pair of glider collisions). This stands in stark contrast to the remainder of the book, and contains the germ of a story which will probably be as fascinating as the book itself when it eventually unfolds. Think of Constance Reid's biography of Richard Courant and the development of ``What is Mathematics?'' or the labor problems of the 1930's at the Disney Studios. Walt also insisted on signing everything, although he drew fewer actual cartoons as time went on. Grand Panoramas can backfire. Think of Arthur Eddington's ``Fundamental Theory'' (out of print, but an account by Kliminster exists}, Velikovsky's ``Worlds in Collision'' or L. Ron Hubbard's ``Dianetics.'' As a parting shot on superficiality, How can you write a 1,200 page scientific book without one single literature citation {sorry, the author has a list of some of his own; but sends you to the Internet (Yahoo!, Google, or what have you} if you want to know more about it)? [doing so can be rewarding] And anyway, Thanks for all the Fish! (Er, pretty pictures; the book is gorgeous)
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is more hype than delivery. If he is going to claim to produce some great new unifing theory of everything, then it should try to back it up in a more concrete manner, a more mathematical manner. If he is really the genius that he claims to be, then he should be humble and show us his greatness rather than tell us his greatness. I read half of the book and it is very poorly done and the typesetting is bad for the notes and supporting parts. I would not suggest buying and reading this book. It however will probably cause a bit of debate for several years if not thrown into the realm of science fiction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stephen Wolfram's 'A New Kind of Science' could have used an editor. The text is highly repetitive and boring. This is an intellectually soft book. Astonishingly, the book has no bibliography. Wolfram mentions very few other scientists by name in the main text; Godel is among the few who are mentioned in the main text, in the chapter on the so-called 'Principle of Computational Equivalence,' where it is stated that thanks to Wolfram's discoveries, Godel's incompleteness theorems should no longer be seen as suprising. At long last, Wolfram has provided a context in which the incompleteness theorems appear inevitable, he writes, dismissing the work of dozens of researchers in the field of logic and recursion theory. The book is full of Biblical sounding pronouncements alerting the reader to the importance of what he is about to read; these reach a climax in the final chapter on the Principle of Computational Equivalence, which is supposed to have implications not only for physics, but for mathematics, philosophy and--one of Wolfram's favorite phrases (aside from his liberal use of the pronoun 'I')--'elsewhere'.

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.