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Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds (Complex Adaptive Systems) Paperback – January 10, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0262680936 ISBN-10: 0262680939

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Turtles, Termites, and Traffic Jams: Explorations in Massively Parallel Microworlds (Complex Adaptive Systems) + Agent-Based and Individual-Based Modeling: A Practical Introduction + Growing Artificial Societies: Social Science From the Bottom Up (Complex Adaptive Systems)
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Product Details

  • Series: Complex Adaptive Systems
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book (January 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262680939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262680936
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Mitchel Resnick's book is one of the very few in the field ofcomputing with an interdisciplinary discourse that can reach beyondthe technical community to philsophers, psychologists, and historiansand sociologists of science." Sherry Turkle , Professor, Program in Science, Technology, and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

About the Author

Mitchel Resnick is Associate Professor in the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Customer Reviews

I was impressed with all of the nice programs he presented to the class.
Ramon Padilla
If you're a knower play with these models, join the established community for more answers, and apply these models to real situations.
Aquerreta Juan C
Overall, it's a great book, and it inspires a lot of thinking, but it left me wanting a bit more...
A. Franke

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A. Franke on July 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
I picked up this book while browsing the Computer Science section. The first line on the back cover drew me in: "How does a bird flock keep its movements so graceful and synchronized?" Unfortunately, this question (and others similar) was never really answered in the book. Rather than an intellectual or philosophical discussion of how organized behaviors develop from non-centrally-controlled systems in real life, the book seems to focus on why it happens in simplified computer simulations. The book is really about looking at organized behaviors from a decentralized perspective - using computer simulations to aid in this perspective. (Termite mounds, for example, aren't created by a "seed or lead" termite, they're in fact created by the behaviors common to individual termites, and the interaction of those termites with the environment, as is demonstrated in a simplified computer simulation.)
The book focuses a great deal on workings of the StarLogo programming language, which is not included but is downloadable (more on this later). The programming language allows users to simulate massively parallel systems. The book includes many code samples, programming notes and descriptions of how the simulations progress at run time. Discussions of resulting organized behaviors lie almost completely within the scope of the software simulations, but are very interesting nonetheless (although it will likely leave you wanting more). After only the first simulation (regarding slime mold), I found myself at the computer to download the software. Which brings me to my next point...
You won't find the software at the location specified by the book. It appears that the original StarLogo language was written for the Mac, and was renamed MacStarLogo.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Edelman TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
When Papert created the LOGO computer language, it was with the idea of creating a tool simple enough for children to use that could nontheless teach them very power notions about algorithms and the power of computing. With Star LOGO, Mitchell Resnick has created a equally simple, yet unbelievably powerful tool that can be used to experiment with ideas of complexity.
"Termites..." is about how complex behaviors can arise from very simple systems, and to that end Resnick provides a number of case histories and simple programs that demonstrate how conceptually complex systems can be simulated using only a few rules. Phenomena as diverse as the movement of traffic james, pile making by termites and the migration of slime molds can all be simulated in Star LOGO with very a few assumtions. But Resnick's programs aren't just simulations; they're models of the real underlying processes that govern these complex phenomena.
Resnick hasn't just created a clever program; he's provided a wonderful tool for exploring complexity, and found a way of translating complexity into something a child can understand- while still fascinating to an adult.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Frank Carver on September 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a book describing the research of a team at MIT using a version of the educational language "Logo". Running in a simple graphical environment which supports multiple parallel operation of code in the same shared space. Write a few lines of code for an "ant", then let 1000 of them loose. The current version of this "StarLogo" system is written in Java, and available as a free download for anyone to play with.
The use of Logo is both a strength and a weakness of the approach. The strength is that the code is concise and easy to understand. The weakness is that there is only one source of the software, and anyone wishing to try it is limited to the available download. This would not be such a limitation if the book described the same version, but unfortunately things have moved on a lot since the book was written, and few (if any) of the examples will work without alteration.
As well as the development of the StarLogo system, the book covers experiments in emergent behaviour. Typical sections include how parameter and environment changes can affect the growth and development of simulated ant colonies, and a theoretical basis for those "phantom traffic jams" we have all experienced.
This book is certainly interesting if you are interested in developing parallel software simulations, or if you are interested in marginal computer languages, but don't expect the code to work without effort.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Barry Brown on December 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
I found this book very inspirational. As an educator, I am interested in bringing elementary computer programming back to the primary and secondary school curriculum. (Programming disappeared in the early to mid 1990s.)
This book is for the teacher who wants to use computers to help kids (or grown-up kids-at-heart like myself) explore and understand the world around them. There is no software included with the book; rather, this is a book about the author's experiences in using the StarLOGO language to introduce children to parallel, distributed programming, a technique that enables modeling of the interaction of termites and ants, the flow of traffic, and the burn patterns of forest fires. Modeling the real world is an excellent way for kids to get excited about programming because the results are not as "abstract" as, say, simply drawing pictures on the screen or calculating monthly budgets. This is an "idea" book for educators looking for new ways to bring computing to our younger generations.
The book starts slowly and is very detailed at the beginning. I like that. The author describes some of the interactions he had with the kids he was teaching. Reading about the problems the kids faced and how he guided them to a solution was fascinating. Unfortunately, as the book progresses, the author seems to be in a "hurry" to finish: the programming anecdotes become less detailed and there are fewer pictures to illustrate the projects. I would have liked to read about them in more detail. That's the one shortcoming of this book.
If you're a teacher or computer-minded parent looking for ways to challenge your kids with new programming projects that model real life, this is a good book to read. It's not intended for your kids to read, nor is it a set of "canned" projects, but I think you'll find some good ideas in it.
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