A New Kind of Science

A New Kind of Science

A New Kind of Science cover

A New Kind of Science (referred to as ANKOS from now on) is an immense tome written by Stephen Wolfram in virtual isolation over a ten year period.

Like most cellular automata enthusiasts I was interested in seeing the book once I first heard about it and I grabbed a copy when it was first available in the local book shop. When I first purchased ANKOS I was hoping to get some ideas for new cellular automata from the book to add to Visions of Chaos. What really happened is that after skimming through it a few times it went on the bookshelf and was never referred to again.

For many more detailed reviews of the book you can refer to the Amazon reviews and this collection. I am not qualified to judge if there is a “new kind of science” contained within the many pages, but the general consensus seems to be that the book does not contain a new kind of science and that someone should never ever write a book of that size without an editor and without peer review. If anything, ANKOS is a good lesson on how not to write about something you have done or discovered.

The other day I took the book off the shelf again and cracked it open, still in pristine condition other than the layer of dust that had gathered over the past 18 years. This time I am looking specifically for ideas that I can program and add to Visions of Chaos. ANKOS is a high quality book in terms of physical production value but some of the diagrams and font sizes (especially in the notes section) can be a strain for my not so perfect eyes. Luckily Wolfram provides the entire book online so I can read (and zoom) that version much more easily. Having the book online is appreciated as I can easily link to specific sections of the book directly. Physical ANKOS went back on the shelf again. Maybe forever this time.

Over the past three days I implemented the following nine cellular automata types from ANKOS that I had not previously included with Visions of Chaos.

1D Cellular Automata

Page 60 – Three Color Totalistic Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 71 – Mobile Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 73 – Extended Mobile Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 76 – Generalized Mobile Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 125.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 156 – Continuous Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 460 – Two State Block Cellular Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

Page 461 – Three State Block Cellular Automata.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

2D Cellular Automata

Page 173.

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

ANKOS CA

846 pages later I am done.

See my ANKOS album on Flickr for more images from ANKOS.

Final Summary

I had a bunch of other complaints about the book here that I deleted. Everything I wanted to say has been covered in other reviews. Besides that I do try and keep to the “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all” adage in this blog.

Was I glad I went back and opened ANKOS again? Yes, overall I did find some interesting new cellular automata to play with. I have experimented with cellular automata of many types over the years and while I do find them very interesting I doubt that they will be the answer to everything, but hey, what do I know?

I do know that if anyone shows any interest in my copy of the physical book it will be thrust into their eager hands with my insistence that they take it as a gift and not a loan.

Jason.

4 responses to “A New Kind of Science

  1. Interesting. Could you implement the reversible rules mentioned in the book as well as 2-3 state block cellular automata? I also figured out you can make 1d block cellular automata, but it doesn’t have many interesting rules aside tron.

  2. 2 and 3 state block cellular automata are now implemented and will be in the next Visions of Chaos upload.

    Wolfram never gives any decent explanations of how his example cellular automata work. Half the time you have to decode his “hints”. For example, the 6 pictures at the bottom of page 436 https://www.wolframscience.com/nks/p436/ might be interesting, but there is no real explanation of how they work. How does his rule number work? What neighbors are used? If by “nearest-neighbor rule” he means the current cell and its two closest neighbor cells than how does he get 7,625,597,484,987 possible rules with 3 states?

  3. Hey I’m a huge fan of your youtube videos and just came upon your blog. I’m a physics/cs student in college, and would be interested in taking the book off your hands (would pay for any costs).

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