A New Kind of Science

Early in the 1980s Stephen Wolfram began to work in earnest upon cellular automata. These are a class of computer model which may be visualized as a set of memory locations, each containing one bit. These bits are updated in a succession of time steps. In each step, the new value of each bit depends upon the values of neighboring bits. Wolfram particularly studied the class of automata in which all the bits are arranged upon a line, and each bit is updated using the very same functional dependence upon the bits at that site and its two nearest neighbors. There are 256 different automata of this type. Wolfram made it his business to study systematically all of these different automata, using extensive computer simulations, and to think about and generalize from what he thereby uncovered. A New Kind of Science, written and published by Stephen Wolfram, is the outcome of these, and related, studies.

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