Wolfram’s NKS now 100% online for free

I’m a big fan of Wolfram’s work in “A New Kind Of Science”. Of course, I don’t pretend to understand anything he’s saying, but I do love the pretty pictures…

Anyways… he’s released the entire contents of the book online. Not only is the book up there, but each section is linked to downloadable programs which demonstrate the principles in the chapter.

Scanning this again this morning reminded me of his “Principle of Computational Equivalence“, which basically suggests that all processes that are not obviously simple can be viewed as computations of equivalent sophistication. There is a certain simplicity and beauty in his message. What if the entire apparent complexity of the-universe-as-we-perceive-it could emanate from an extremely simple rule?

Source: /.

Comments (9)

  1. SBC says:

    haven’t had much time to get into NKS but absolutely love ‘Mathematica’.. used it a lot during my grad days..

  2. Is NKS as accessible as Hawking’s A Brief History of Time or Sagan’s Cosmos? I have read both of those and readily enjoyed them. Based on your comment "Of course, I don’t pretend to understand anything he’s saying" I’m worried NKS might not be as "lay person"-friendly as Hawking’s or Sagan’s works. Is this a true concern, or said merely in jest? 🙂 Thanks.

  3. KC Lemson says:

    I took mathematica for my math classes at UIUC, which is a couple of miles away from Wolfram. The manager of the math department had apparently known Stephen Wolfram for a long time, and I’ll always remember one of the questions on an exam (written by said manager), about how Stephen Wolfram was a Romulan. I can’t remember exactly how it related to math though 🙂 I loved that class.

  4. Scott says:

    Scott Mitchell: No, well sort of. Much of Wolframs text is "isn’t this cool and I discovered it" for a full 3 inches of book. When the reality is, he didn’t really discover it. He has done work on CA, but he hardly discovered a "New Kind of Science".

    I prepared a short reading list, a beginners guide to Complexity Science, when I saw Richard Lowe was preparing a series of articles about writing Complex Adaptive Systems using C#.


    A good starting point if the Wolfram book interested you, would be "Hidden Order" by John Holland. He’s the father of the genetic algorithm and although he does have some equations in the book, it’s a much shorter read and isn’t as self-promoting.

    Dr. Stuart Kauffman is one of the founders of complexity science as well, I worked for him at the BiosGroup in Santa Fe, NM. His books "At home in the Universe" and "Investigations" deal more with self-organization and how it affects evolution. But they are pretty easy reads, not quite as accessible as Hawkings book though.

  5. Scott says:

    A little post to get my link "above the fold" <LOL>. The comment layout needs a little work Cameron.

  6. Scott says:

    Sorry to ramble on and on, but complexity science is one of my hot-button passions. 🙂 There is a great book out about the founding of the Santa Fe Institute and the beginings of complexity Science at Los Alamos national labs called "Complexity"


    It’s very interesting to see how people working in different scientific disciplines came together and realized there was a common thread, complex adaptive systems, running through all their disciplines.

  7. Cameron Reilly says:

    Scott – great comments, would love to hear more about what you know about CA. Will look at your site ASAP.

    In the meantime, I didn’t understand specifically what you meant by "the comment layout needs a little work". Can you expand? And I’ll try to amend the situation.

    Finally, in defense of Wolfram, didn’t he go to lengths in the book to state that, although others had worked on CA before him, he believed he was the first to extend the scope of the approach to pretty much everything?

  8. Scott says:

    (jeez I comment in here so often you’d think I’m stalking Cameron)

    I pointed Matt Warren to the Amazon reviews when he mentioned ANKOS in his blog.




    A more telling review by a physicist is located here.


    Most of the reviews, at least the ones that aren’t critiquing his writing style, lean towards the "he’s unoriginal" opinion. As far as applying to everything, take a look at the science board for the Santa Fe Institute.


    It comprises pretty much every scientific discipline you can think of, physics, biology, economics, linguistics, mathematics, political science, anthropology, psychology, and zooology. Wolfram started working on complexity in 1981, according to his website. The SFI was founded in 1984 by a diverse group of scientists and economics specialists. I know Kauffman started doing work with CA back in the late 60’s, when Wolfram was only 11 years old. Wolframs book seems to only deal with CA and not with CAS nor complexity science in general. Therefore his claims of a new kind of science, or even being the first one to apply complexity to everything, seem to fall a little flat.

    Here’s an interesting tidbit, recently Microsoft has joined the SFI business net. The SFI started finding some similarities between living virus behavior and computer virus behavior.


  9. Scott says:

    re:comment layout, it appears to only be a problem in Mozilla/Firebird (although Safari users might have it too). It looks like it’s related to the height of the "News" div tag. Causes the comments to shift over to the left side right after the "watching" section. I’ll dink around with the HTML and stylesheet tonight and see if I can get it to look right. I’ve seen it at other .Text sites too that use this theme, so it might be worth it to get the fix to Scott W.