Plenty of people claim to have theories that will revolutionize science. What’s rare is for other scientists to take one of these schemes seriously. Yet that’s what’s happened since May 2002 when theoretical physicist Stephen Wolfram self-published a book in which he alleged to have found a new way to address the most difficult problems of science. Tellingly, he named this treatise A New Kind of Science.

The book, which Wolfram sent to hundreds of journalists and influential scientists, sparked a firestorm of criticism. Detractors charged that the author was peddling speculations as discoveries, asserting that decades-old research was new, and pirating the research of others without giving due credit.



Many commentators concluded that the author’s promise of a revolutionary upheaval in science was grandiose and unbelievable, even as they allowed that the book contained some incremental scientific discoveries, as well as intriguing ideas.



Fast-forward to this summer: Wolfram’s book is in its fifth 50,000-copy printing, despite being a $45, 1,200-page, technically dense hardback. Dozens of scientific papers have cited the book. Wolfram has hosted the first international conference on his work.



What’s going on? Has the man discovered a secret that will cause science textbooks to be rewritten or merely found a formula for mass-marketing science—or something in between? Science News takes a look at Wolfram’s enterprise 15 months after the book’s debut.



More here.

0