Adam Becker in Scientific American:
Stephen Wolfram blames himself for not changing the face of physics sooner.
“I do fault myself for not having done this 20 years ago,” the physicist turned software entrepreneur says. “To be fair, I also fault some people in the physics community for trying to prevent it happening 20 years ago. They were successful.” Back in 2002, after years of labor, Wolfram self-published A New Kind of Science, a 1,200-page magnum opus detailing the general idea that nature runs on ultrasimple computational rules. The book was an instant best seller and received glowing reviews: the New York Times called it “a first-class intellectual thrill.” But Wolfram’s arguments found few converts among scientists. Their work carried on, and he went back to running his software company Wolfram Research. And that is where things remained—until last month, when, accompanied by breathless press coverage (and a 448-page preprint paper), Wolfram announced a possible “path to the fundamental theory of physics” based on his unconventional ideas. Once again, physicists are unconvinced—in no small part, they say, because existing theories do a better job than his model.
At its heart, Wolfram’s new approach is a computational picture of the cosmos—one where the fundamental rules that the universe obeys resemble lines of computer code.