A New Kind Of Science

  1. Stephen Wolfram's A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE is the biggest disappointment I have ever experienced in my reading. If his book was a program it would be analogous to making a long journey to the edge of the universe in search of the meaning of life ony to be left in the end asking 'That's it?' Nada? 'No supreme being, no purpose?' or that the answer to the meaning of life the Universe and everything is 42.
    I've been interested in the subject that is the core of A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE for many years and perhaps I'm disappointed because there is nothing essentially new in the book. I enjoyed the style of the book although at times there seems a bit too much precise repetition. I probably completely missed any nesting in the book. What I found most annoying is the number of times Wolfram used phrases like 'intuition', 'my guess', 'my speculation is...' .
    It's really a very interesting book but I would compare it to Einstein's autobiography sooner than Newton's Principia.
    I really don't know what to make of A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE. What do other people think of it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Surfing the net I came across a few reviews. Scott Aaronson's review at http://www.kurzweilai.net/meme/frame.html?main=/articles/art0503.html? echoes some of my own views. When I was reading A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE Wolfram's numerous claims to some kind of intellectual propriety or priority in the field annoyed me. He also seemed to be trying to assert that being able to give a guess that turns out to be correct has a weight equal to an exact prediction.
    It's like someone saying, "My guess Mr. Newton is that the orbit will be an ellipse and I therefore claim priority in the discovery of a law of gravity if this proves to be true."
  4. My opinion of the book is that it is neither as great as Wolfram predicted, nor as vapid as his critics accused. No, there is not much new in the book, but it is still one of the best overviews on CAs around. His slighting of Fredkin does need to be condemned, as it has been. I will never understand why there is little on CA creatures, such as gliders and walkers, which I find to be the most interesting aspect of field.
  5. Another good article about the book is written by Ray Kurzweil himself, I think its the same one I read a while ago that was very good, and in my opinion very true about the book and its positions. http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0464.html?printable=1

    It's an interesting book, but it seems to be more of "A New Way of looking At Science", rather than a new kind of science altogether. An interesting book nonetheless, and very likely Stephen's alternate way of looking at science can lead to some big advancements, possibly.
  6. So the basic idea of the book is that the most complex behavior arises from very simple rules and through this we can understand the universe, (sounds a bit like string theory) and this idea of complexity arising from this simple rules can be understood by computation. Like a computer program :wink:

    Wasn't cellular automata actually the brainchild of Von Neumann, and Wolfram tweaked and refined it and took credit to the dismay of some scientists?
  7. selfAdjoint

    selfAdjoint 8,147
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    The idea that the universe is a cellular automaton and that physics can be built up from that with simple rules is from Edward Fredkin, a physicist. He has been working on the idea for years.

    You can read about Fredkin in an old book by Robert Wright: Three Scientists and their Gods. The scientists are Fredkin, E.O. Wilson, and Kenneth Boulding, and the "Gods" are not formal religion but their separate searches for meaning within science.
  8. A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE is written in a SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN style and is actually a very good introduction to the subject. If it weren't for the numerous personal remarks Mr. Wolfram peppers throughout the book, I would recommend it to one and all. However, as it stands, it's a big ad for amateur scientists and young people with an interest in the subject to purchase the expensive MATHEMATICA software.
    Perhaps, this squirt of hot butter book that sheds light on a new kind of physics should be judged by the cover. The title is not A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE by Stephen Wolfram but STEPHEN WOLFRAM (BIG RED CAPITAL LETTERS) A NEW KIND OF SCIENCE (BIG WHITE CAPITAL LETTERS SAME SIZE AS NAME).
    Certainly, the computational view of the universe it is a different perspective but its got as much right to being called a new kind of science as Computer Science or General Systems Theory has.
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