Challenging the traditional mathematical model of scientific description, a scientist proposes a new dynamic computational approach that utilizes simple codes to generate patterns of ultimate complexity.
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 spare, Wolfram outlines a fundamental new way of modeling complex systems.
On the frontier of complexity science since he was a boy, Wolfram is a champion of cellular automata–256 “programs” governed by simple nonmathematical rules. He points out that even the most complex equations fail to accurately model biological systems, but the simplest cellular automata can produce results straight out of nature–tree branches, stream eddies, and leopard spots, for instance. The graphics in A New Kind of Science show striking resemblance to the patterns we see in nature every day.
Wolfram wrote the book in a distinct style meant to make it easy to read, even for nontechies; a basic familiarity with logic is helpful but not essential. Readers will find themselves swept away by the elegant simplicity of Wolfram’s ideas and the accidental artistry of the cellular automaton models. Whether or not Wolfram’s revolution ultimately gives us the keys to the universe, his new science is absolutely awe-inspiring. –Therese Littleton