In Search of a Scientific Revolution

From Science News:

Automata Plenty of people claim to have theories that will revolutionize science. What’s rare is for other scientists to take one of these schemes seriously. Yet that’s what’s happened since May 2002 when theoretical physicist Stephen Wolfram self-published a book in which he alleged to have found a new way to address the most difficult problems of science. Tellingly, he named this treatise A New Kind of Science. The book, which Wolfram sent to hundreds of journalists and influential scientists, sparked a firestorm of criticism. Detractors charged that the author was peddling speculations as discoveries, asserting that decades-old research was new, and pirating the research of others without giving due credit. Many commentators concluded that the author’s Wolfram promise of a revolutionary upheaval in science was grandiose and unbelievable, even as they allowed that the book contained some incremental scientific discoveries, as well as intriguing ideas. Fast-forward to this summer: Wolfram’s book is in its fifth 50,000-copy printing, despite being a $45, 1,200-page, technically dense hardback.

At the heart of Wolfram’s work is the observation that extremely simple computer programs can generate patterns of extraordinary complexity.

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