Stephen Wolfram: A New Kind of Science (2002)

30 December 2009, dusan

This long-awaited work from one of the world’s most respected scientists presents a series of dramatic discoveries never before made public. Starting from a collection of simple computer experiments–illustrated in the book by striking computer graphics–Stephen Wolfram shows how their unexpected results force a whole new way of looking at the operation of our universe.

Wolfram uses his approach 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.

Written with exceptional clarity, and illustrated by nearly a thousand original pictures, this seminal book allows scientists and nonscientists alike to participate in what promises to be a major intellectual revolution.

Publisher Wolfram Media Inc, 2002
ISBN 1579550193, 9781579550196
348 pages

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James Gardner: The Intelligent Universe. AI, ET, and the Emerging Mind of the Cosmos (2007)

30 December 2009, dusan

What is the ultimate destiny of our universe? That is the striking question addressed by James Gardner in The Intelligent Universe.

Traditionally, scientists (and Robert Frost) have offered two bleak answers to this profound issue: fire or ice.

The cosmos might end in fire—a cataclysmic Big Crunch in which galaxies, planets, and life forms are consumed in a raging inferno as the universe contracts in a kind of Big Bang in reverse.

Or the universe might end in ice—a ceaseless expansion of the fabric of space-time in which matter and energy are eternally diluted and cooled; stars wither and die , and the cosmos simply fades into quiet and endless oblivion.

In The Intelligent Universe, James Gardner envisions a third dramatic alternative—a final state of the cosmos in which a highly evolved form of group intelligence engineers a cosmic renewal, the birth of a new universe.

Gardner’s vision is that life and intelligence are at the very heart of the elegant machinery of the universe. It is a viewpoint that has won outspoken praise from an array of leading scientists, including Sir Martin Rees, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, and Templeton Prize winner Paul Davies.

The Intelligent Universe is both a look into the past and a road map for the future of the universe. It explores the mysteries of the universe and of consciousness, and provides a frank and fascinating look at where our minds are taking us.

Publisher Career Press, 2007
ISBN 1564149196, 9781564149190
Length 269 pages

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Douglas Thomas: Hacker Culture (2003)

29 December 2009, dusan

A provocative look at the subculture that has shaped our changing attitudes toward the digital age.

Demonized by governments and the media as criminals, glorified within their own subculture as outlaws, hackers have played a major role in the short history of computers and digital culture-and have continually defied our assumptions about technology and secrecy through both legal and illicit means. In Hacker Culture, Douglas Thomas provides an in-depth history of this important and fascinating subculture, contrasting mainstream images of hackers with a detailed firsthand account of the computer underground.

Programmers in the 1950s and ’60s—”old school” hackers—challenged existing paradigms of computer science. In the 1960s and ’70s, hacker subcultures flourished at computer labs on university campuses, making possible the technological revolution of the next decade. Meanwhile, on the streets, computer enthusiasts devised ingenious ways to penetrate AT&T, the Department of Defense, and other corporate entities in order to play pranks (and make free long-distance telephone calls). In the 1980s and ’90s, some hackers organized to fight for such causes as open source coding while others wreaked havoc with corporate Web sites.

Even as novels and films (Neuromancer, WarGames, Hackers, and The Matrix) mythologized these “new school” hackers, destructive computer viruses like “Melissa” prompted the passage of stringent antihacking laws around the world. Addressing such issues as the commodification of the hacker ethos by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, the high-profile arrests of prominent hackers, and conflicting self-images among hackers themselves, Thomas finds that popular hacker stereotypes reflect the public’s anxieties about the information age far more than they do the reality of hacking.

Publisher U of Minnesota Press, 2003
ISBN 0816633460, 9780816633463
Length 266 pages

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