Wolfram Science Group
Phoenix, AZ USA
Registered: Aug 2003
There is no free version of Mathematica, but there is a discount student version, including options to get one for a limited time. The details are here -
There is also a piece of stand-alone software for investigating systems discussed in the book, called NKS Explorer. If you want to write your own programs, a full Mathematica is better. But if you just want to reproduce experiments described in the book, try them with different parameter values, and the like, NKS Explorer might be sufficient for you. It is laid out according to the chapters of the book, with system examples from most. You can find details on NKS Explorer here -
On the history of Cellular Automata, they were invented by John von Neumann decades ago. Wolfram studied them in the early 1980s and published a series of papers on them, long before the publication of A New Kind of Science. You can find historical details in this note -
As for visits to France, while he was there briefly last year he wasn't giving speeches. I don't know of any scheduled engagements there. I do know that there is a Cellular Automaton conference being given in the south of France later this year - specifically in September, at the University of Perpignan. You can find the details on this website -
As for stuff about 3D CAs, the section of the book dealing with them starts on page 182. But frankly they can be fairly tough to work with, because they evolve in 3 spatial dimensions, and time makes a fourth - and it is relatively hard to get good visualizations of 4 dimensional objects. If you look at the whole history made by 2D CAs - treating each time step as one "slice" - you can get interesting 3D structures already, without going up to a 3D CA in the strict sense.
If you do decide to look at 3D CAs, try looking at the last step, or making animations of their growth. One other warning is that 3D CA simulations are computational quite intensive, and use lots of memory. Also, you are pretty much forced to look at somewhat simplified space of rules, like totalistic rules. Because the number of general CA rules even of 2 colors and range 1, with a full 3D neighborhood of up to 27 neighbors (9 above, 9 level with counting the center cell, and 9 below), has 2^27 entries in its rule table - that's 134 million cases - and 2^2^27 possible rules.
I'd recommend starting with 2D rules instead, and looking at the 3D structures they can make if you "stack" each time step on top of the next, most recent at the bottom and oldest at the top. You can read the section on those in NKS, starting on page 171. On the next page there is an example of the sort of pyramid structures those make.
I hope this helps.
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