Stephen Wolfram’s epic 1000+ page book, A New Kind of Science, is keeping me occupied at the moment. Certainly an interesting read and quite extraordinary in what it sets out to achieve. The opening gives you some idea: “Three centuries ago science was transformed by the dramatic new idea that rules based on mathematical equations could be used to describe the natural world. My purpose in this book is to initiate another such transformation, and to introduce a new kind of science that is based on the much more general types of rules that can be embodied in simple computer programs.”
What I find fascinating is Wolfram’s discussion of the way he wrote the book, which bubbles to the surface every now and then. There’s a good article in Wired magazine by Steven Levy called “the Man who cracked the code to everything…” which follows the story of the ten years that it’s taken Wolfram to write the book. He worked almost nocturnally, seldom straying into the “real” world, experimenting on “cellula automata” — essentially simple programs. Levy reports that one friend, described Wolfram thus, “He reminds me of the noblemen who worked in science during the 1800s — they did it for the love of it.”
Anyway, I won’t spoil the book for you, but take a look. I think it may be the most significant scientific book to have been published in my lifetime.