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R. Carter Gray

Nashville

Registered: Oct 2009
Posts: 2

NKS science project

I'm attempting to help my son understand NKS enough to feature it and cellular automata in a science project. So pardon me for being simplistic in my understanding of the applications of NKS.

Would anyone care to weigh in on the following questions? We will greatly appreciate it.

In the algorithmic process from basic rule to complexity is it true that both randomness and that which can be called determined naturally occur? Is this feature present in all known processes which have been produced or measured by cellular automata? Which is the correct word -- produced or measured?

Does cellular automata explain how one leaf of one specie of tree will grow precisely into that type of leaf?

How did Wolfram computationally arrive at the rules which govern say the processes which makes zebra stripes look different from tiger stripes or the process which makes one type of shell look different from another shell of a different specie?

Can this be used in a very rudimentary way to explain how two dogs of the same breed can have different features (size, coloring) and still be that breed of dog?

Is this to say that cells or genes do not always have to be dominant in the process of the formation of one of these dogs in utero? In other words, will runts in a litter of dogs naturally and randomly occur so that a runt does not necessarily represent a deficiency present in the smaller dog? Does NKS demonstrate that the least fit also randomly are produced and survive?

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Old Post 10-07-2009 07:30 PM
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Michael Round
Rational Systems, Inc.
Overland Park, KS

Registered: Dec 2003
Posts: 21

Here's a project I'm working on, introducing the high-school-aged student to the ideas of NKS ...

http://www.rationalsys.com/proximateevent.html

The whole book is downloadable at the site. Let me know what you think, should you take a peek!

Mike Round
Center for autoSocratic Excellence
www.rationalsys.com

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Old Post 10-08-2009 01:42 AM
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R. Carter Gray

Nashville

Registered: Oct 2009
Posts: 2

The Proximate Event

Michael, your book is very impressive. But I am a layman, which Wolfram's book fortunately caters to, so I take a very theoretical, general view of NKS without having any mathematical skills. We're (my son and I) approaching NKS on the basis of newspaper and magazine articles we've read which have been written for laymen. For example, one writer described NKS with the following analogy: On a football field you find black tiles in one end zone and white tiles in the other. Your job is to place the tiles according to rules working from the inside of the field out. When you finish and view your work from the seats in the upper deck you find that you have created a certain species of rose. I could get my mind around that. I have been fascinated by the idea of complexity coming from basic rules, out of which comes both random and determined features -- this being computationally equivalent or universal for all natural processes. I've tried to apply the idea of randomness in this case as it might pertain to natural selection. I'm rereading A New Kind of Science, and I can perhaps pull from examples from there. For the time being, we're working to digest your book. Thank you.

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Old Post 10-08-2009 01:27 PM
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inhaesio zha


Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 403

I'll take a crack at some of these

I'm not an expert on NKS, but I'll take a crack at some of these questions.

I hope people more knowledgeable than me will correct me if I misinform.

I'm skipping the questions I don't think I can answer.

>> "In the algorithmic process from basic rule to complexity is it true that both randomness and that which can be called determined naturally occur? Is this feature present in all known processes which have been produced or measured by cellular automata? Which is the correct word -- produced or measured?"

In the systems usually discussed in this domain, there is no randomness in the algorithm. The algorithms of ECAs, their close derivatives, and the other simple computational systems featured in Wolfram's NKS book (and other books) do not have any algorithmic randomness. I think the answers to the rest of those questions would be a matter of opinion at this moment, as people have different ideas about "natural" processes' randomness or determinism...but many people think there is no such thing as algorithmic randomness in the universe (injected from outside the system, as Wolfram puts it in the NKS book)...rather that "randomness" only exists in the mind of a perceiver of a complex system...that "random" things only look random from (and due to) certain points of view.

>> "Does cellular automata explain how one leaf of one specie of tree will grow precisely into that type of leaf?"

No, not necessarily. Fractals and CAs and all kinds of other modeling techniques might correspond to the growth patterns of leaves, patterns on shells, etc., but as far as I know, right now, the connection that has been drawn between CAs is, to use a word from Wolfram's book, taxonomic...from looking at the output of CAs (or other models) and comparing it with the patterns and structures of leaves, snowflakes, shells, it seems reasonable to conjecture that simple programs (perhaps like CAs in their simplicity and determinism) could have produced the similar patterns seen in nature...but I don't think that it's been shown, nor have I read Wolfram (or anyone) to be saying that CAs, proper, are operating underneath any particular natural outputs.

Last edited by inhaesio zha on 03-19-2010 at 03:30 AM

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