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Think Complexity: Complexity Science and Computational Modeling [Paperback]

by Allen B. Downey
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 9, 2012 1449314635 978-1449314637 1

Expand your Python skills by working with data structures and algorithms in a refreshing context—through an eye-opening exploration of complexity science. Whether you’re an intermediate-level Python programmer or a student of computational modeling, you’ll delve into examples of complex systems through a series of exercises, case studies, and easy-to-understand explanations.

You’ll work with graphs, algorithm analysis, scale-free networks, and cellular automata, using advanced features that make Python such a powerful language. Ideal as a text for courses on Python programming and algorithms, Think Complexity will also help self-learners gain valuable experience with topics and ideas they might not encounter otherwise.

  • Work with NumPy arrays and SciPy methods, basic signal processing and Fast Fourier Transform, and hash tables
  • Study abstract models of complex physical systems, including power laws, fractals and pink noise, and Turing machines
  • Get starter code and solutions to help you re-implement and extend original experiments in complexity
  • Explore the philosophy of science, including the nature of scientific laws, theory choice, realism and instrumentalism, and other topics
  • Examine case studies of complex systems submitted by students and readers

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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Exploring Complexity Science with Python

About the Author

Allen Downey is a Professor of Computer Science at the Olin College of Engineering and a former Visiting Scientist at Google, Inc. He has taught computer science at Wellesley College, Colby College and U.C. Berkeley. He has a Ph.D. in Computer Science from U.C. Berkeley and Master's and Bachelor's degrees from MIT.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: O'Reilly Media; 1 edition (March 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1449314635
  • ISBN-13: 978-1449314637
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #392,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Allen Downey is a Professor of Computer Science at Olin College and author of Think Python, Think Stats, Think Bayes, Think Complexity, and several other computer science books. The idea behind these books is that if you know how to program, you can use that skill to learn other things.

Allen is an avid runner, gardener and cook. He ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2011, finishing in 3:45. Allen lives in Needham, MA with his wife, two daughters, and two cats.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
By Si Dunn
Are you a reasonably competent Python programmer yearning for new challenges? "Think Complexity" definitely delivers some.

Allen B. Downey's well-written new book can help you dive into complexity science and improve your Python skills along the way. It's not just another hello-world, learn-to-program-in-Python text.

"This book," Downey states, "is about data structures and algorithms, intermediate programming in Python, computational modeling, and the philosophy of science." Hello, NEW world.

His new work, he adds, sprang out of a blending of "boredom and fascination: boredom with the usual presentation of data structures and algorithms and fascination with complex systems. The problem with data structures is that they are often taught without a motivating context; the problem with complexity science is that it usually is not taught at all."

Complexity science is the scientific study of complex systems - which can be anything from computer networks to the human brain, global markets, ecosystems, metropolitan areas, space shuttles, ant trails, and so forth. Complexity science is practiced "at the intersection of mathematics, computer science, and natural science," Downey says.

How does "the philosophy of science" fit into Downey's book? "Think Complexity" offers "experiments and results [that] raise questions relevant to the philosophy of science, including the nature of scientific laws, theory choice, realism and instrumentalism, holism and reductionism, and epistemology."

Downey's new work "picks up where Think Python left off" and is intended to appeal to the "broad intellectual curiosity" of software engineers and their "drive to expand their knowledge and skills.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This short but extremely exciting book is simultaneously an invitation to actively participate in what Stephen Wolfram has called "A New Kind of Science", and an introduction to "Data Structures" (what traditionally has been the second course in Computer Science with an exciting new motivation. Complexity Science has been a part of the public attention since the 1992 publications of Stephen Levy's "Artificial Life" and M. Mitchell Waldrop's "Complexity"; it attempts to motivate and explain aspects of Life's Biological Processes, Economics, and Chaos Phenomena (such as weather, and fractal displays. While Wolfram's massive and influential book of 2002 vastly popularized this important new field, there hasn't been a simple way (up until now) for DIY experimenters to see on their own computers the results where a small number of simple rules leads to the most complex results and phenomena.

This book gives relatively straightforward programs in the Python Language which explain and illustrate phenomena such as Conway's "Game of Life", Wolfram's Cellular Automata experiments, and fractal graphics which can be run on a experimenter's own PC. Moreover, this book invites the reader to design their own experiments which may be published in a subsequent edition of the book and which give the real possibility of participating in new science to a moderately skilled home experimenter.

The book also importantly provides new motivation to one of the most basic skills of computer science by providing a way through which relatively simple data structures can yield important and surprising results in a variety of new science.

--Ira Laefsky, MSE/MBA
Home Experimenter formerly on the Senior Consulting Staff of Arthur D. Little, Inc. and Digital Equipment Corporation
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where Rubber meets the Road June 30, 2012
I really like this book, but I feel I could get a lot more out of this book if I had a more solid understanding that was introduced in the author's "Think Python" book. This is obviously by no fault of the book itself, just a fair warning to people whom may be in the same boat. I plan to go thru "Think Python" and re-read this book again. Readers need some intermediate Python chops and some understanding in scientific methodology prior to this book in order to maximize the benefits. And yes, as other review mentioned, plan to spend a fair amount of time to read up on all the references. I read the book digitally via Kindle app, so it was easy to link to the Wiki pages, but I can see some frustration if one was using a printed version. Also plan on doing a fair amount of coding in the exercises.

It was interesting how the author organized the idea shift in scientific thinking of the complexity science. If one is familiar with the works like Malcolm Gladwell in "Blink", "Outliers" or similarly in "Freakonomics" one can clearly related to the method of using simulation-based computational model to solve problems that are non-linear with large composite, many-to-many elements. Many of the TED talks I have seen also employed this line of method in arriving at their respective conclusions.

The middle section of the book introduced various models and approaches into solving complex problems. I absolutely love the fact that the theories were broken down into small pieces of problems that can be illustrated by small Python programs. Of the examples, the sections on Dijkstra algorithm and scale-free networks were the most interesting to me. As network engineer whom have dealt with OSPF and IS-IS on regular basis, I never thought it was possible to simulate the algorithm via Python.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Read
It is a small compact book that gently introduces complexity sciences. I have picked through this book over the last year and rather enjoy its intermittent injection of topics like... Read more
Published 24 days ago by michaelDubs
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice topics, but limited in scope
This is a book with very nice examples that can be adapted immediately to class room use. With all books with Python code, it suffers from the fast development of Python. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Thomas J. E. Schwarz
5.0 out of 5 stars Tiny Book, Great Book
I love Professor Downey's books. He departs from traditional Computer Science to work with interesting applications and to provide materials that supports the reader's... Read more
Published 8 months ago by seapwc
5.0 out of 5 stars Think Complexity
My background is in mathematical physics and I am currently in the process of obtaining a Masters degree in applied mathematics. This book was written for me. Read more
Published 9 months ago by L. Bovard
5.0 out of 5 stars Kindle before and after
Beware of "free" Kindle App. I wanted this book but decided to get the Kindle version for $13.95. I don't have a Kindle but the Kindle App is free so I downloaded that. Read more
Published 14 months ago by unhappy
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't buy unless you are seriously committed to do your homework.
As most people these days, I spend my whole day in front of a computer, and I do most of my reading on a screen. Read more
Published 14 months ago by alessandro averchi
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful and quite insightful
I've found this book extremely interesting. First of all, it actually maps concepts from the Mathematical and Computer worlds to the real world problems. Read more
Published 22 months ago by dan.morgantini
3.0 out of 5 stars A Textbook of Fundamental Topics
This was a difficult book to read! For the most part, it is a textbook introducing the field of Complexity Science and explaining some fundamental Computer Science topics. Read more
Published 24 months ago by G. van Staden
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent starting point for learning Computational modelling
I bought this book to basically understand how Google and Facebook model their internal data and have algorithms make sense of it, to understand how any real life observation could... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Sachinrao Panemangalore
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting coverage, but very targeted audience
I've seen the title of this book several times, so when it appeared on
the list of books in the O'Reilly blogger review program, I had to grab it. Read more
Published on April 23, 2012 by sjenkins278
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