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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Since the 1970s, emerging discoveries about chaos, complexity, and randomness have tantalized just about everyone clued in to the intellectual currents of the age. Are these discoveries mere "toys" or harbingers of an entirely new worldview? If you were smart and wealthy enough to pursue these issues as your life work, you'd be Stephen Wolfram. And, at the end of your journey, you'd believe you'd found a gateway to an entirely new science -- one that will clear away age-old obstacles in fields ranging from cosmology to economics.
Wolfram, almost unique among contemporary scientists, has avoided publishing his findings until he could bring them together in a comprehensive treatment for both scientists and nonscientists. A New Kind of Science is that book.
Wolfram's lab is his computer (appropriate, since he made his fortune creating Mathematica calculation software for scientific research). Drawing on massive amounts of computer power, he shows that incredible complexity can arise from even the simplest systems and rules. This isn't entirely a new idea. More surprising, perhaps, Wolfram shows that the reverse is true: Order sometimes arises spontaneously out of chaos. Still not quite a revolution, but Wolfram has delved further into complexity than anyone else, identifying guiding principles that appear to have universal application in nature.
Scientists, even the most revolutionary, are people of their times. It may be that in 400 years, people will accuse Wolfram of the classic fallacy of "owning a hammer and thinking everything's a nail." But it's also possible that humanity will have 400 years of progress to look back on, thanks in no small part to his work. (Bill Camarda)