Cellular Automata: A Discrete View of the World

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9780470168790: Cellular Automata: A Discrete View of the World
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An accessible and multidisciplinaryintroduction to cellular automata

As the applicability of cellular automata broadens and technology advances, there is a need for a concise, yet thorough, resource that lays the foundation of key cellularautomata rules and applications. In recent years, Stephen Wolfram's A New Kind of Science has brought the modeling power that lies in cellular automata to the attentionof the scientific world, and now, Cellular Automata: A Discrete View of the World presents all the depth, analysis, and applicability of the classic Wolfram text in a straightforward, introductory manner. This book offers an introduction to cellular automata as a constructive method for modeling complex systems where patterns of self-organization arising from simple rules are revealed in phenomena that exist across a wide array of subject areas, including mathematics, physics, economics, and the social sciences.

The book begins with a preliminary introduction to cellular automata, including a brief history of the topic along with coverage of sub-topics such as randomness, dimension, information, entropy, and fractals. The author then provides a complete discussion of dynamical systems and chaos due to their close connection with cellular automata and includes chapters that focus exclusively on one- and two-dimensional cellular automata. The next and most fascinating area of discussion is the application of these types of cellular automata in order to understand the complex behavior that occurs in natural phenomena. Finally, the continually evolving topic of complexity is discussed with a focus on how to properly define, identify, and marvel at its manifestations in various environments.

The author's focus on the most important principles of cellular automata, combined with his ability to present complex material in an easy-to-follow style, makes this book a very approachable and inclusive source for understanding the concepts and applications of cellular automata. The highly visual nature of the subject is accented with over 200 illustrations, including an eight-page color insert, which provide vivid representations of the cellular automata under discussion. Readers also have the opportunity to follow and understand the models depicted throughout the text and create their own cellular automata using Java applets and simple computer code, which are available via the book's FTP site. This book serves as a valuable resource for undergraduate and graduate students in the physical, biological, and social sciences and may also be of interest to any reader with a scientific or basic mathematical background.

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From the Publisher:

This book is an overview of the subject, written at the level of Scientific American. In fact, the first worldwide exposure of the subject of CA was in Scientific American, in Martin Gardner's columns on the "Game of Life". The book also includes interesting discussions on the nature of consciousness, swarm intelligence, emergence, and of course, self-organization, as these form an integral part of the CA milieu. Some of the commentary on these topics comes from overlooked historical sources as well as from the very latest scientific thinking. Additionally, explicit rules are given for each CA model so that anyone with a modicum of programming skill can delve right in and explore them further. The text should allow anyone with a basic scientific understanding, be they in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, economics etc., to apply the discrete modeling techniques of CA to their own scientific endeavors. Much of life on Earth, from seashell patterns to neural activity in the brain, to the formation of bacterial colonies, becomes amenable to investigation with this essentially elementary technique.

The fundamental premise of CA is that complex behavior arises out of simple rules governing local behavior, and this is a useful paradigm for the way in which much of the world works. The virtue of CA is that they are much easier to deal with than the usual partial differential equations and often allow greater insight into the underlying processes at play.

From the Author:

Having taught at the university level for the past 35 years, one of the techniques I have tried to invoke is teaching a particular topic from multiple points of view. This has a very positive effect on increasing the depth of learning and understanding. It is this approach that is adopted in the book, and some topics will be approached by two, three, and even five different points of view.

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