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The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation

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Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. In this book Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. Distinguishing "agents" (e.g., molecules, cells, animals, and species) from their interactions (e.g., chemical reactions, immune Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. In this book Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. Distinguishing "agents" (e.g., molecules, cells, animals, and species) from their interactions (e.g., chemical reactions, immune system responses, sexual reproduction, and evolution), Flake argues that it is the computational properties of interactions that account for much of what we think of as "beautiful" and "interesting." From this basic thesis, Flake explores what he considers to be today's four most interesting computational topics: fractals, chaos, complex systems, and adaptation. Each of the book's parts can be read independently, enabling even the casual reader to understand and work with the basic equations and programs. Yet the parts are bound together by the theme of the computer as a laboratory and a metaphor for understanding the universe. The inspired reader will experiment further with the ideas presented to create fractal landscapes, chaotic systems, artificial life forms, genetic algorithms, and artificial neural networks.


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Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. In this book Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. Distinguishing "agents" (e.g., molecules, cells, animals, and species) from their interactions (e.g., chemical reactions, immune Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. In this book Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. Distinguishing "agents" (e.g., molecules, cells, animals, and species) from their interactions (e.g., chemical reactions, immune system responses, sexual reproduction, and evolution), Flake argues that it is the computational properties of interactions that account for much of what we think of as "beautiful" and "interesting." From this basic thesis, Flake explores what he considers to be today's four most interesting computational topics: fractals, chaos, complex systems, and adaptation. Each of the book's parts can be read independently, enabling even the casual reader to understand and work with the basic equations and programs. Yet the parts are bound together by the theme of the computer as a laboratory and a metaphor for understanding the universe. The inspired reader will experiment further with the ideas presented to create fractal landscapes, chaotic systems, artificial life forms, genetic algorithms, and artificial neural networks.

30 review for The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amar Pai

    I was somewhat disappointed by this book. Maybe 15 years ago the ideas presented here were radical and surprising, but now they're old hat. Much of the material is stuff that will be familiar to anyone who took intro level math and CS classes in college-- computability, lambda calculus, Godel's theorem, etc. The sections on fractals, cellular automata, neural nets, etc. cover well-trodden ground. There are better books if you want to delve deep into these subjects, and at a superficial level it' I was somewhat disappointed by this book. Maybe 15 years ago the ideas presented here were radical and surprising, but now they're old hat. Much of the material is stuff that will be familiar to anyone who took intro level math and CS classes in college-- computability, lambda calculus, Godel's theorem, etc. The sections on fractals, cellular automata, neural nets, etc. cover well-trodden ground. There are better books if you want to delve deep into these subjects, and at a superficial level it's stuff you've already seen popularized elsewhere. The biggest surprise to me was how little nature this book actually contains. There is certainly some-- fractal geometry in ferns, flocking of birds, emergent behavior in ants-- but much of the book is just theoretical discussion of the aforementioned math/CS topics. I guess it's a sign of how much this whole area of inquiry succeeded, that it all seems rote today! We've played Sim-Ant and Sim City, fooled around with Mandelbrot sets in Javascript, seen machine learning practically applied all over the place. All par for the course. If you're interested in fractals specifically, try Fractals Everywhere. If you're interested in complex systems, criticality, and general applications of computation/math to nature, I highly recommend the Princeton Companion to Mathematics. It's a more modern take on these topics. If you're the kind of person who would read The Computational Beauty of Nature, you will definitely enjoy the Princeton Companion. Check it out!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dave Peticolas

    An introduction to several strands of mathematics and computer science which have parallels in nature and biology. The topics covered include: + Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem + Fractals + Chaos + Cellular Automata + Genetic AlgorithmsBecause of the breadth of topics, the subject matter is sometimes treated fairly lightly. Although this sort of introductory treatment was exactly what I wanted, I occasionaly found the explanations to be too hand-wavy, especially some of the philosophical asides.Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book very much. It's probably the onlasides.Nevertheless,AlgorithmsBecauseAutomataChaosFractalsTheoreminclude: An introduction to several strands of mathematics and computer science which have parallels in nature and biology. The topics covered include: + Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem + Fractals + Chaos + Cellular Automata + Genetic AlgorithmsBecause of the breadth of topics, the subject matter is sometimes treated fairly lightly. Although this sort of introductory treatment was exactly what I wanted, I occasionaly found the explanations to be too hand-wavy, especially some of the philosophical asides.Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book very much. It's probably the only book that combines all of these topics into one comprehensive volume.The book has its own website with source code for the programs used to investigate the various subjects.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Peter Aronson

    I very much enjoyed this book. While very little of the material was new to me, I enjoyed how it was presented, and more important, how it was connected. This is a somewhat dense book at times, and I had to re-read/re-parse some paragraphs multiple times. The sections "providing" mathematical background, however, are terse to the point of self-parody -- all they are good for is reminding someone about things they already knew, but might not have used recently.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nick Black

    As Amar Pai notes in his review, most of this is old hat to anyone who's paid attention to their undergraduate computer science curriculum and the pop math of the past 20 years. That said, it's exquisite writing, a wonderful intro for anyone new to computability, and has absolutely lovely digressions (often clearly offset as such). I found the material on computing via chaos via method of linear transforms new and fascinating. As Amar also notes, the title is kind of misleading; I was expecting As Amar Pai notes in his review, most of this is old hat to anyone who's paid attention to their undergraduate computer science curriculum and the pop math of the past 20 years. That said, it's exquisite writing, a wonderful intro for anyone new to computability, and has absolutely lovely digressions (often clearly offset as such). I found the material on computing via chaos via method of linear transforms new and fascinating. As Amar also notes, the title is kind of misleading; I was expecting a good bit more "nature" in this book. Still, well worth reading (you'll tear through it if you've got a sufficiently technical background; I read two-thirds of it waiting to meet my probation officer), and a charmingly deceptive book to leave out on the coffee table--softies will pick it up and actually learn something.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter D. McLoughlin

    Best book of its kind I've read. Shows how mathematical algorithms shape the natural world and incites being gained with computer technology. The math isn't hard for someone who has studied the subject in college.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Deemeetree

    Amazing book about chaos theory, combinatorics, and fractals.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Collin Bell

    I used this for a textbook in my favorite college class: Biologically inspired computation.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Nice practical cookbook of Simulationist theology.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mobill76

    I feel a strange draw towards two poles. I love the highly technial man-made achievements and I love the completely unspoiled "nature of nature". This book sythesizes the two extremes beautifully. As our computers push the envelope of mathematics, we are better able to sythesize and understand the structure and appearance of natural things. This book added to my appreciation of nature by showing me the level of computation required to simulate it. At the same time, it added to my appreciation of I feel a strange draw towards two poles. I love the highly technial man-made achievements and I love the completely unspoiled "nature of nature". This book sythesizes the two extremes beautifully. As our computers push the envelope of mathematics, we are better able to sythesize and understand the structure and appearance of natural things. This book added to my appreciation of nature by showing me the level of computation required to simulate it. At the same time, it added to my appreciation of science by tying it to the emotional response that I feel when I see beauty in nature. Very little of this is really share-able in a high school classroom. The kids love the fractals and this book helps explain the practical applications of fractals. But fractals weren't even in the CA teaching standards in the first place, so it's all kindof extra-curricular. But, it's a beautiful book. Beautiful in the way that "Eternal Golden Braid" was beautiful. And much more concise.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Very interesting book. The subjects are well selected and complementary to each other. Even if it is more about computing than nature, it is interesting to see the connections that are made between some natural phenomena and math/CS theories.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff

    Like my experience with Manfred Schroeder's "Chaos, Fractals, and Power Laws", but extremely well organized, and clear. The example pseudo-code and included examples really got me excited to write some code and play with each topic myself.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Abbosh

    Emergence of complexity from chaos ... How the blind forces of physics and chemistry at the lower level can and does produce a mind boggling complexity as perceived in the natural world.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  14. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Geiger

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pablo F Souza

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barrysmyth

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dan Farmer

  18. 4 out of 5

    Austin

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Fried

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kenny Daily

  21. 4 out of 5

    µ

  22. 4 out of 5

    Maaike

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nikita

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eternalaeon

  26. 4 out of 5

    Manish Prabhune

  27. 4 out of 5

    AJ

  28. 4 out of 5

    Sonam Jain

  29. 4 out of 5

    adrestia

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ville Outamaa

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