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Title: The Computational Beauty of Nature.
Author: Gary William Flake
Published: 1998 MIT Press.

Sections:
  • Computation
  • Fractals
  • Chaos
  • Complex Systems
  • Adaption

    This is one of the best text books I have ever read. In fact it is the only textbook I have ever actually read, cover to cover. Its goal is to show how each of the sections relates to each other, not just one to another but one to all and all to one. It is in that respect an overview rather than an in depth examination of each of the topics. There is enough depth for you to, for example, write a program but not enough to consider yourself an expert. It does give many references for further reading if any particular topic interests you.

    Each section starts with an explanation of the topic in general, then a few well chosen examples of the types of systems that are being discussed. These examples are well explained and will almost always use pictures rather than formulae to make their point. There are formulae where they are necessary but missing them will not detract from the main thrust of any given section. The most interesting part of each of the sections for me was the postscripts. This is where the subjects are brought together and the concepts that the chapter elucidated are discussed in relation to previous and later sections. Just reading the postscripts will give you a good overview of the concepts and how they relate to each other.

    The style of the writing is clear and to the point as are the diagrams. Almost all of the diagrams are the output from programs that the author himself wrote and for which the source code is available (the graphs are mostly from GNUPlot). He speaks of these systems with the familiarity of someone who has worked with them for years and seen beyond their individual limitations to provide a comprehensive and entertaining overview of the subject.

    This is the concept map of the book (it looks a million times better in the book!). It is introduced in the first chapter and again in the last. In the first it is an interesting but essentially meaningless collection of lines and concepts. At the end it will hold a wealth of exitement and meaning.

                          Computation
                        _/  /      \ \_
                     __/   /        \  \_
                    /      |        |    \
                  _/       |        |     \_
                 /         |        |       \
             Coadaption   /          \     Recursion
              _/         |            |       \__
             /           |            |          \
             |          /              \          \__
             |    Cellular Automata     \            \
            /         /        Incomputability        \
           /          |                   \            \
    Adaption_____     CS                  |            Fractals
        |        \                       Ch    ______/  /
        |         \                           /        /
        |          Emergence                 /        /
        \                \      Growth Models        /
         \                \        /                /
     Self-Organisation     \      /      Strange Attractors
           \                \____/__                |
            \                   /   \        Ch     |
             |     CS          /     \_____   \     |
             |      |     ____/            \   \_   |
              \     |    /                  \__  \  |
               \    |   /   Phase Transitions  |  | |
                \   |  /    /               \  |  | |
                 \  | /    /                 \ | / /
            Complex Systems                   Chaos
    
    
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