I asked for help with Wolfram and Steven Weinberg (via Jorn) provided a timely review in the NY Review.

[Quote] Wolfram makes it seem that physicists choose simple rather than complex phenomena to study because of long habit or mathematical flabbiness, but in seeking the laws of nature it is the essence of the art of science to avoid complexity. [Unquote] Good old Occam again. Therefore how can “science” hope to explain anything complex.

[Quote] It was the simplicity of planetary motions that allowed Newton to discover the laws of motion and gravitation ……. Newton would never have discovered his laws by studying turbulence or snowflakes. [Unquote] Excellent – well that’s the two-body problem sorted, what would “science” like to offer as an encore ? It’s interesting that Weinberg should use this example, because he also rather disparagingly denies any practical value in simple computers with [Quote] The simpler the design of a universal computer, the more steps it takes to emulate each single step of a practical computer. This is why Dell and Compaq do not sell Turing machines or rule 110 cellular automata.[Unquote] Meeeooowww !

[Quote] I am an unreconstructed believer in the importance of the word, or its mathematical analogue, the equation. [Unquote] Glad to hear it, but unless I’m misunderstanding current thinking around mathematical equations, Weinberg seems to have a strangely simplistic / logical / mechanistic view of words in a linguistic sense.

[Quote] After looking at hundreds of Wolfram’s pictures, I felt like the coal miner in one of the comic sketches in Beyond the Fringe, who finds the conversation down in the mines unsatisfying: “It’s always just ‘Hallo, ‘ere’s a lump of coal.'”[Unquote] I know what he means. (See my earlier plea.)

At least Weinberg found some claims worth challenging in Wolfram’s book – all I’ve seen so far is countless pretty pictures, and constant repetition of what must be pretty obvious to anyone who’s taken any interest in chaos and complexity in recent decades, that complexity can arise from simple rules. Interesting too that Weinberg writes in an apparently open-minded way, referring to Wolfram’s magnum opus as “an interesting failure”, yet he constantly exhibits that western scientific arrogance in his choice of arguments. This one will run and run.

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