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The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems and Adaptation (Bradford Books) [Paperback]

Gary W Flake
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 33.95
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Book Description

1 Mar 2000 Bradford Books
"Simulation," writes Gary Flake in his preface, "becomes a form of experimentation in a universe of theories. The primary purpose of this book is to celebrate this fact."In this book, Gary William Flake develops in depth the simple idea that recurrent rules can produce rich and complicated behaviors. Distinguishing "agents" (e.g., molecules, cells, animals, and species) from their interactions (e.g., chemical reactions, immune system responses, sexual reproduction, and evolution), Flake argues that it is the computational properties of interactions that account for much of what we think of as "beautiful" and "interesting." From this basic thesis, Flake explores what he considers to be today's four most interesting computational topics: fractals, chaos, complex systems, and adaptation. Each of the book's parts can be read independently, enabling even the casual reader to understand and work with the basic equations and programs. Yet the parts are bound together by the theme of the computer as a laboratory and a metaphor for understanding the universe. The inspired reader will experiment further with the ideas presented to create fractal landscapes, chaotic systems, artificial life forms, genetic algorithms, and artificial neural networks.

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The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems and Adaptation (Bradford Books) + The Nature of Code: Simulating Natural Systems with Processing
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Product details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press; New Ed edition (1 Mar 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262561271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262561273
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 20.1 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 171,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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"This book is a delight." Barak Pearlmutter , University of New Mexico "This delightful book illustrates beautifully the paradigm shift inphysics from writing equations and solving them to computer modelingand experimentation." Greg Chaitin , author of The Limits of Mathematics

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Let's take this idea further by examining a single ant. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellently balanced, great as a reference too. 21 Feb 2001
By James M
This is an excellent book - covering all the topics a book with such a title should do! From complexity and chaos to artificial intelligence and artificial life, Flake balances readability with information and theory perfectly.
His introduction to neural networks is easily one of the best I've read, and coverage of the iterated prisoner's dilemma is also as comprehensive as they come.
If you're reading this review, you're obviously now :)
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book - but not for the faint hearted... 16 Dec 2002
The book is an interesting and well written book, and is good value, but it is very dense, and cannot be read very easily. A high standard of mathematics /knowledge of computer science is assumed. Overall - a good buy but only for those confident in such a subject - definitely not a coffee table book
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My all-time favorite. 27 May 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a astonishing book that introduces the reader to the wonder that lies within the world that surrounds us. It helps us view the whole gamut of physical and biological processes through the perspective of computation. Though eminently readable, the book presents all the information, equations, and code that one needs to actually think articulately about the concepts exposed and even "get stuck in". It's really one of a kind.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every page will make you think... 26 Sep 2000
By A Customer - Published on
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.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An instant classic 31 Oct 1999
By A Customer - Published on
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.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bring out the fun and enthusiasm of computing 19 Feb 2000
By Benny Cheung - Published on
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good first book on the subject of simulating natural phenomena 4 Aug 2006
By calvinnme - Published on
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. A very accessible book that is also more advanced than this text is "Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos: With Applications to Physics, Biology, Chemistry and Engineering". It clearly explains the mathematics while tying it into key concepts in nature. "Chaos and Fractals" by Peitgen is a good book on the subject for the layperson with a fascination for mathematics presented in some depth. The book also has various Java programs that illustrate key concepts.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Influential Book I've Ever Read 2 Jan 2000
By A Customer - Published on
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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