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Jesse Nochella

Registered: Mar 2004
Posts: 132

Everyday First Time Reactions to NKS

As a junior in high school, with A New Kind of Science in my backpack almost at all times, I have found numerous opprotunities to describe the concepts and applications behind NKS to people who express no apparent prior intrest in such things as cellular automata, randomness, computational irreducibility, and the Principle of Computational Equivalence. In fact, most of the people that I speak to about NKS have had no serious interest in Mathematics in general.

However, I have found that despite this apparent lack of intuition that one may suppose is required for an affinity to mathematics in general, and more specifically the new kind of science that Wolfram describes in NKS, upon opening the book for the first time, sometimes without even prior knowledge as to what the book is about (perhaps not even the front cover as the book is open already), one is immediately interested in what they see.

I must say that I had expected a somewhat positive reaction to A New Kind of Science, as I had reacted very positively upon opening it for the first time. But I did not expect the variety of people, consisting of all types and interests that seem to be attracted to this book.

One might surmise that the consistent reactions that I have received are because of other factors other than the book itself. For example, perhaps my tone of voice, or use of words aid to inspire a person or group that I am talking to. It is my strong suspicision that this is not so. For I have observed (enough) numerous reactions (perhaps, as far as reactions go, 1 every other day or so for the past few months), and the tendency that strikes me most seems to be in relation to my use of words that describe the book versus their own interpretations. As I said above, upon no prompt, when any person looks at A New Kind of Science, they seem to be immediately interested in what they see. What I notice as so interesting is that once I start talking about the contents of the book, the first impression that had sparked their curiosity in the first place seems to fall to the wayside. The more that I speak, the more confused the listener seems to get. Knowing this, I try to avoid taxing dialogue by speaking and answering questions in very general terms, letting the reader come to their own conclusions. This may seem contradictory at first, but I am quite sure that this is a very suprising and effective way to go about explaining abstract concepts to someone with no prior interest. I am thoroughly impressed with the reactions that I have observed.

The reason for me starting this thread is to consolidate experiences of first time, and/or early reactions of NKS, either personal or observational from others. Naturally there is much information on such experiences in these forums. A centralized source of first time and/or early encounters of NKS in general should provide further insight into what non-involved bodies of people such as the general public see the world of NKS. Also, perhaps a clearer understanding of the nature of teaching NKS to an audience can be reached as well.

Last edited by Jesse Nochella on 04-03-2004 at 03:04 PM

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Old Post 04-02-2004 09:30 PM
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Jon Awbrey

Registered: Feb 2004
Posts: 558

Knocking On Doors Enough

KODE. Note 1


What you say reminds me of times during my undergrad years (1967-1976) --
yes, that's nine years -- when I would get excited about some new idea,
enough to go knocking on some professor's door seeking enlightenment
about it. There were enough times when that worked out well enough
to be worth the continuing risk of it, but then there were times
when it went a bit like this: They wouldn't just say "I am not
interested in that", they would say "I can't think of anybody
anywhere who's interested in that" or "Nobody's interested
in that anymore". There are times when that slowed me
down a bit and there are times when it didn't -- and
the funny thing is that a few years later I would
find myself passing through some anywhere where
some anybodies were still interested in that
very thing -- but the question is: Why do
you think people say things like that?

Jon Awbrey

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Old Post 04-03-2004 02:32 PM
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Jesse Nochella

Registered: Mar 2004
Posts: 132


I can relate to the patterns of responses that one gets from asking, whether directly or indirectly, for enlightenment and greater understanding of a particular subject that they are interested in at the time. People gather exactly what you seek on a verbal level, however, sometimes they can not relate the notion of "deep passionate understanding and insight" on the subject you speak of to any particular memory or experience that they have in their own working memory.

It is true that, for example, a professor may remember of a time when they were deeply interested in the subject you speak of -- perhaps even they did some work themselves to further the subject. Even in a situation like this, it is possible for them to say, for example that they feel "no one is interested in that anymore". It is my suspicion that, even if there is interesting areas of the subject you speak to them of, perhaps even undyingly interesting, it is entirely possible for one to reason them as uninteresting and discard them as unimportant.

One might imagine a simple explanation for this phenomenon. A supposed reason, for example might be: The reason for someone’s interest in a particular subject to become disenchanted is that they feel they have found all the consistencies, patterns and tendencies that describe the subject itself; therefore turning what seemed once so grand into elementary, manageable thoughts and therefore objects/tools that can be used to relate, and piece together more elaborate, important concepts. And thus, if one thinks that they see all that is contained within a particular subject, they deem it unimportant to revisit and that any further study would yield expectable results.

At first glance, an explanation like the one above seems to clearly and precisely explain a great many things that were once in question. But of course, like many simple explanations, there are subtle inconsistencies that seem to fall to the wayside once the thought is accepted. For this very reason, it is my strong suspicion that the above explanation does not justly explain the actual systems that govern thought, and that a true explanation would instead not necessarily be simple enough to satisfy our own systems of perception and analysis, but would appear much more complex, and have instead the implementation of something analogous to the simple programs that Mr. Wolfram describes in his book and elsewhere.

I hope that answers your question.

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Old Post 04-03-2004 09:17 PM
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Jesse Nochella

Registered: Mar 2004
Posts: 132

Thread Starters Story

Note: I have been looking at this thread for a while and figured that an example of a first time experience from myself would be useful and clarifying, so here it is.

I first discovered Steven Wolfram, his career and book all at once in a Discover Magazine article (Discover, January 2003, p. 48, "The Wolfram Controversy" (100 Top Science Stories of 2002), Keith Devlin. ).

Thinking back, I remember being not shocked, but in a very subtle, calm way, stirred. My interest was not in the controversy, or even the possibility that certain aspects of traditional scientific philosophy were being challenged. My interest was in the fact that a 1200 page book; in which the content was essentially dictated by simple computer programs was actually written, and out to the public. I was not overwhelmed by the fact at all. I was harmlessly tinctured with curiosity, and I wanted to read it.

After about a month the book was finally in my hands. It was when I first held it when I felt that the content of the book contained something more than what I was looking for. And then so sparked my first feeling of real curiosity.

So I decided that I was going to read the entire book in a linear fashion, to prevent from missing a single thing. Taking each thing in slowly and as thoroughly as possible. 50 pages later, to my surprise, I was not startled nor confused. The concepts (in my mind at the time) seemed quite natural and fundamental. After 168 pages, I thought that I had a glimpse of about perhaps 60% of the content of NKS, and about 40% material still completely foreign. But the truth is that at the time I had only glimpsed about 15% of NKS at the time and would've been less if read now. After about one third of the way though, I got to know the book a bit better and did not read it from front to back. The best way to read it is through presistent exposure and satisfying what may seem like random urges to read (but really are not).

I could've never really been sure how much I really knew back then. The only clues that I had were a few figures in my head: First there's the millennia of mathematics before me, then comes the 20+ : years it took to develop NKS to its present state. It took 10 years to write, since the time I was in Kindergarten to the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. I was just barely 16 years old and even with all those obvious figures I still felt like it was becoming clear. For anyone feeling that way about NKS let me tell you, there's more. The good news is that it really is more than you think, and if theres any bad news then its that you just may not care.

By this time, I have what i think is a broad, general, understanding of the key concepts of NKS. After more than a year (wow), I am starting(just) to successfully pursue my specific interests within the field, and beginning(just) to learn what research and contribution is about. I think.

Stories anyone?

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Old Post 06-24-2004 08:30 PM
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