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Ends with erroneous conclusions
on November 20, 2004
On the last page of this book, after bouncing around and occasionally relying on cutesy dialogue, the author makes five conclusions. Each appears below, with reviewer comments immediately after
1. The world can be resolved into digital bits, with each bit made of smaller bits.
By definition, a digital bit is irreducible, so the sentence makes no sense.
2. These bits form a fractal pattern in fact-space.
Fractals are noted for having the appearance of complexity, even though they are defined by very simple rules. All information indicates that the rules that define the universe are more complex than the human mind can comprehend.
3. The pattern behaves like a cellular automaton.
A cellular automaton is defined by rules where life and death are determined by the status of neighbors. By their definition, facts do not live or die on the basis of their neighbors.
4. The pattern is inconceivably large in size and dimensions.
No argument here.
5. Although the world started very simply, its computation is irreducibly complex.
The author is the only person that I have ever encountered who considers the world to have had simple origins. The second part is a direct contradiction to statements 1, 2, and 3, particularly 1.
Another distressing situation occurs when the author coins the word numberskulls. An obvious allusion to numskulls and used to refer to people who reduce things to numbers, it is a very poor joke. While this may appeal to those afraid of numbers, it ignores the fact the modern world has a numeric definition.
If you are looking for a book dealing with the world and how it functions, reach past this one and grab "The Emperor's New Mind" by Roger Penrose (Oxford University Press, 1989). It costs a little more, but is well worth it.
Published in Journal of Recreational Mathematics, reprinted with permission.