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The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, and Adaptation Reprint Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262561273
ISBN-10: 0262561271
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This book is a delight.

(Barak Pearlmutter, University of New Mexico)

This delightful book illustrates beautifully the paradigm shift in physics from writing equations and solving them to computer modeling and experimentation.

(Greg Chaitin, author of The Limits of Mathematics)

About the Author

Gary William Flake is a Scientist at the NEC Research Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Product Details

  • Series: MIT Press
  • Paperback: 514 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; Reprint edition (January 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262561271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262561273
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #350,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on September 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
I have to strongly disagree with the previous reviewer ("A reader from USA"). While this book covers a tremendous amount of material (over 500 pages, I think), the author manages to give you the intuitive explanation, the meaty equations underneath, figures and text to explain every part of the equations, and source code for simulations. I know of no other book that explains things so thoroughly.
To be honest, this is a book that will make you think at every page. But you can't read this book without thinking. If you are a good match for this book, you will use it for years. It is complex, subtle, beautiful, and intricate.
If you really need more information, type in the author's name or the book title into yahoo. That will take you to the web page. There, you can read book excerpts, reviews, and the glossary. Then make your own decision.
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By A Customer on October 31, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Over the years I have read many books on artificial life, complex systems, and computer science. Quite simply, this book is best that I have ever seen. It is easy and fun to read because Flake has a casual and pleasant writing style. Yet it still manages to be true to all of the topics covered. In fact, all of the equations that are required to understand the topics are given, but Flake gives you the intuition that you need to understand them by giving many figures, metaphors, and analogies.
Plus, the source code and images are just spectacular.
I consider this book to be as important as Hofstaders "Goedel, Escher, Bach." So if you buy just one science book this year, this should be it.
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Format: Hardcover
Computing books are divided into immediate needs for professional life and spiritual food for enriching computing life. This book is the second type. Just by reading the preface, you get the sense of pure fun side of computing and the author's noble goal to bring this book to you. Some book's info will only last for a few months but this book will last for a long time in your computing life.
Every chapter is filled with inspiration. The author has carefully crafted a program for every chapter for you to enjoy. This reading and playing style fits the topic greatly. Although you will still see some math notations (some are hard to follow), I tried hard to follow and enjoy the beauty in the notation and mathematical side of the story.
If you go to the book's website, you can download the source code (including someone port the software to Java source code). I find the Java demo is better to run.
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Format: Paperback
This is a good introductory textbook for college undergraduate mathematics and computer science students that attempts to combine the theory of computation with some mathematical concepts and in the end, manages to model virtual life by explaining basic concepts in chaos, adaptation, fractals, and complex systems. There are better books on all of these subjects, but few others do such a good job of tying together key concepts from each discipline into the one theme of this book. However, there is only enough room to outline the included subjects rather than investigate them thoroughly.

Also, the mathematics is elementary enough to be accessible to a mathematically mature high school student. The mathematics is concisely explained as it is needed, with just a page or two for each of calculus, linear algebra, affine transformations, complex numbers, vector calculus, and matrix algebra. Thus, the included mathematics makes a better refresher than a tutorial for the novice even though the author states in the preface that he wrote this book for a younger version of himself. This book teaches its subject matter mainly by demonstrating concepts through simulations that are expressed in dozens of programs which illustrate the points being made. Instructions on using the programs are scattered throughout the book. The source code is available for download on the web, along with selected excerpts from the book.

I would recommend this as a first book for those interested in simulating natural concepts, but it should not be your last if your goal is to truly grasp the concepts presented and produce simulations of your own. However, an even better book on this subject is "Mathematical Models in Biology", although it is an advanced text.
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Format: Hardcover
I am 16 years old and after reading this book, I know that I want to be a scientist. This is a great book that explains concepts that I've always wanted to understand. Even though the book covers some complicated topics, it is written in a style that is fun to read. The author seems to be really enthusiastic about science and his enthusiasm comes through in the book. I even emailed the author a question and he was kind enough to respond to me. I recommend this book to every teenager who thinks that they might be interested in pursuing science or math.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I recently became interested a lot in Nature. Especially, being someone in the field of Computer Science, the computational aspect. And this book is by far one of my favourite among all the "How Nature Works" kind of books I've read.
This Computational Beauty of Nature (CBofN) covered a lot of topics. Ranged from brief introduction to Computation Theory, Fractals, Chaos, Complexity, Adaptation. (See the Table of Content for more details).
All topics are written in surprisingly clear and very understandable manner. With as little Math as possible. (From my opinion, these topics cannot be completely understood without Mathematics -- The Language of Nature). Therefore, it is also accessible to layperson.
This book does not, however, go so deep into each subject. (You won't expect it to do that with its less-than 500 pages, don't you? :-) Instead, it does give nice backgrounds, fundamental knowledge, and important ideas for each. So, if you are interesting in any of the subjects presented here, you can go on to the more specialized books on your own.
One of the nicest feature of this book, which can hardly be found in other text, is that the it does show how things work together, where and why. For example, natural phenomena like adaptation, evolution, computation, and some other things else related to each other. How can one view this from that perspective, and vice versa. etc.
One other nice feature of this book is, you can really play with almost all concepts using a number of computer programs. All the programs are downloadable (with source code, under GNU license) from the book's homepage. So, you can reproduce almost all the figures from the book.
However, for one thing, the homepage address given in the book, in the edition/printing I have is incorrect.
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