Starting from a few computer experiments, Stephen Wolfram has spent more than twenty years developing a new approach to science, described for the first time in his book A New Kind of Science. Basic to his approach is the idea of studying not traditional mathematical equations but instead rules of the kind embodied in the simplest computer programs. A key discovery is that such rules can lead to behavior that shows immense complexity and mirrors many features seen in nature. Wolfram has built on this to tackle a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science, from the origins of apparent randomness in physical systems, to the development of complexity in biology, the ultimate scope and limitations of mathematics, the possibility of a truly fundamental theory of physics, the interplay between free will and determinism, and the character of intelligence in the universe. When Wolfram's book was released on May 14, 2002, it became an instant bestseller, and is now showing many signs of initiating a major paradigm shift in science. Wolfram's presentation will cover some of the key ideas and discoveries in his book, outlining their implications, and discussing their personal and historical context. An extended question and answer period will be included.
About the speaker:
Stephen Wolfram was educated at Eton, Oxford, and Caltech, receiving his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1979 at the age of 20. His early work in physics and computer science was recognized by a MacArthur award in 1981. In the early 1980s he made a series of now-classic discoveries about systems known as cellular automata, leading to numerous applications in physics, mathematics, computer science, biology, and other fields. In 1986 he founded Wolfram Research, Inc. and began the creation of Mathematica---now the world's leading software system for technical computing and symbolic programming (and tool which made A New Kind of Science possible). Over the past decade Wolfram has divided his time between leadership of his company and pursuit of basic science. The results of Wolfram's fifteen years of work were presented for the first time in his book, A New Kind of Science (May 2002). An instant bestseller, A New Kind of Science constituted international science news and quickly emerged as one of the most-discussed science books in decades.
Because we anticipate a large audience, we will use Gates B1 for the live
presentation and Gates B3 as a video overflow room. Students will have precedence
for seating in the Gates B1 room.
Stephen Wolfram will also be speaking in several other venues. He will speak on the Stanford campus at 7:30PM on Monday, February 10, in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. For details see http://scil.stanford.edu. This is a free public event presented under the auspices of the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning. Following the CSL Colloquium (Wednesday, February 12) he will head to San Francisco to speak in the Herbst Theater starting at 8PM. See Wolfram Talk for more information. This is a public event sponsored by California Academy of Arts and Science; tickets are $18.00.
Dr. Stephen Wolfram
100 Trade Center Drive
Champaign, IL 61820-7237