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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Monday, June 17, 2002

What Are You Reading This Summer?

If you read this article, or this one, you will want to read this book.

Let's get a flavor:

"for sheer audacity — and intellectual salesmanship — it would be hard to beat Stephen Wolfram."


"the universe is really just a big computer, something that can best be described not by analyzing equations but by trying to figure out what kind of software it runs..."

Or, put another way:

What the [people who don't love this book] are less likely to emphasize is the track record of traditional mathematical methods in forecasting, say, the recent gyrations in the stock market or the way a forest fire will burn. Here the usual methods of science are stretched to the limit — and that is where an influential minority of scientists quietly agree on the kind of cure Dr. Wolfram is so loudly prescribing: replacing equations with a different kind of mathematical device called algorithms, simple little computer programs.

This is a big idea. How big?

"In expressing their awe at the mathematical nature of creation, physicists have playfully suggested that God is a mathematician. Why not make him a software engineer? "

Making Bill Gates "John the Baptist"? This sounds great. Oh, no, its over 1200 pages. I'll never have the time. But wait, here's good news:

A self-employed British theorist named Julian Barbour recently argued that time doesn't exist..."

OK. Well, we don't say "Do as I say, as I do" around The MinuteMan household. No, sir, we say "The sign points to Boston, it doesn't go to Boston."

So this looks like a great book and I strongly recommend it. But if you see a fellow sitting on the beach with this, say hello.

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