The Computational Beauty of Nature
Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos,
Complex Systems, and Adaptation

About the Book
  · title page
  · home*
  · cover artwork
  · jacket text
  · table of contents
  · the author*
  · ordering information
Book Contents
  · three themes
  · part synopses
  · selected excerpts
  · all figures from book
  · quotes from book
  · glossary from book
  · bibliography
  · slide show
Source Code
  · overview &
  · FAQ list*
  · download source code
  · java applets
  · news*
  · reviews & awards
  · errata
  · for educators
  · bibliography (BibTeX format)
  · other links
Welcome! This is the home page for The Computational Beauty of Nature, affectionately known as ``The Fish and Chips Book.''

Here, you will find information about the book, source code for simulations involving fractals, chaos, complex systems, and adaptation, and a whole slew of goodies for people interested in multidisciplinary topics involving computers, philosophy, and science.

Some recent news items concerning the book and author are highlighted below. However, please check out the navigation menus on the left, which will take you to the main content of this web site.

New! Web Communities Self-Organize
Gary William Flake (and co-authors) published ``Self-Organization and Identification of Web Communities '' in the journal IEEE Computer, 35:3, March 2002. The paper has a companion website located at

Several news outlets covered the work, including: Nature Science Update, The Washington Post, MSNBC, TRN News, as well as NJN News from the NJ PBS affiliate.

New! Children's Games are Underrated
Gary William Flake and Eric Baum published ``Rush Hour is PSPACE-complete, or "Why you should generously tip parking lot attendants."'' in the journal Theoretical Computer Science 270 (January) : 895-911.

Rush Hour is a deceptively simple children's game that is so computationally profound that it can actually ``compute'' things. Who would of thunk it?

It turns out that our proof technique has wide applicability to answering the complexity status of many open planning problems. Ivars Petersen wrote an excellent overview article of our work at Science News Online.

All figures from CBofN released for noncommercial use
The MIT Press is graciously allowing the figures from CBofN to be used for personal, scholarly, or educational use. The figures (all of them!) can now be downloaded in several formats, or browsed via a thumbnail gallery. See the ``Book Contents / all figures from book'' section for more information.

AI Magazine - Summer 2000 - Reviews CBofN
``The text is well crafted, and the scholarship is both broad and deep. The author is clearly a renaissance man as well as a wonderful teacher. He is equally good at succinct summaries and painting the big picture, and he makes particularly effective use of examples. Best of all is his infectious joy about his subject: The text is full of percolations of delight at the beauty of some concept or equation or at the sheer fun of hacking code. This book would be great for a course, as a reference, or just plain old recreational reading.''

The complete review can be found online.

--Elizabeth Bradley

CBofN Reviewed in the American Mathematical Monthly
``... I know of no book, other than [ The Computational Beauty of Nature ], that covers this interesting mix of related topics. I think this book would make a fine source for a senior seminar or for thesis students. Code is available on the web for those who want to experiment; in my opinion, this should be everyone. Adequate references to other sources are provided, and the author's style is generally engaging.

--Michael Frame

GWF Interviewed on Beyond Computers Radio Show
Gary Flake gave a brief interview on the 3 May 2000 edition of Beyond Computers.

A Real Audio taping of the show is available. Skip ahead about 39 minutes into the show to find GWF's interview.

The Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation on CBofN
``The theme of the book is wildly ambitious: to describe, explain and inter-relate fundamental ideas from computation, fractals, chaos, complex systems and adaptation. It could have very easily gone wrong. But in fact it is a triumph, because Flake is always clear and precise.''

--Nigel Gilbert

Review of CBofN by The British Computer Society
``This is an outstanding book which can be recommended to all computer professionals but especially undergraduate and postgraduate computer scientists and mathematicians.''

--J. W. Bruce

Review of CBofN in The London Times - Higher Educational Supplement
`This is a book that deserves 15 different sorts of review. If computers touch your life, then here is a way of entering the excitement of closing the gap between technology and life, between computers and nature. If you have any sense of fun, get the book, get on the internet, download the programs and start to play your way into exploring the boundaries of science.''

``That is one review. Another might be one that persuades those stuffy people who write A-level computing and information technology syllabuses to read this book and use it to design a syllabus that would give teenagers a real subject. The Computational Beauty of Nature provides a wealth of ideas that are relevant, challenging, stretching, deeply absorbing, and ideal for school treatment. Yet another review would trigger daydreams of a world we might have been drawn into had we read this book when we were teenagers. In receptive hands. this book will inspire degree choices life choices, and a greater appreciation of computers and nature.''

Read More

--Harold Thimbleby

What Readers are Saying
``... suffice it to say that if you've any formal computer training or applied maths: algorithms, background graphics, information theory, number theory, domain theory, you will love this book. It's a coffee table book in the finest tradition, not for the layman who puts "A brief history of time" out to make out he's a scientist, this is a book to leave around for yourself, to pick up, to flick through, to appreciate nature. ... I love to just dip into this, to re-read descriptions of equations and methods. If you like, to remind myself of what my discipline can be about when I get so involved in the minutae of my work that I've forgotten what the bigger picture is all about. ''

--Chris Harrison

What Critics are Saying
``This is a wonderful book. The author lucidly describes the computational beauty of nature from four different perspectives: `Computer Explorations,' `Chaos,' `Complex Systems,' and `Adaptation.' ... Using all four approaches, Flake not only clearly describes nature, but also presents the same phenomena with each approach. This strategy gives the reader a very broad-based educational experience and promotes critical thinking. Without such a presentation, explaining models that purport to describe `nature' can be quite intimidating. Flexibility is another major plus of this publication: Readers may skip a portion of any section or even an entire section without loss of continuity. ... reading this awe-inspiring book will be a colorful experience for the mind.''

--Jason R. Taylor, SB&F, May/June 1999

Dr. Dobb's Does CBofN
The August 1999 issue Dr. Dobbs's has a review of CBofN:

``[ The Computational Beauty of Nature ] is a solid starting point for anyone with a serious interest in computational approaches to complex systems.''

--Gregory V. Wilson:

Undergrad and Graduate Courses Use CBofN
At least ten courses have used CBofN as a primary or supplementary text. Are you an instructer looking for course ideas? Check our the ``miscellany / for educators'' section to see what others are doing with CBofN.

CBofN Wins PSP Book Award
CBofN received the Best New Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division Honorable Mention in the category of Computer Science, awarded by the Association of American Publishers. See the ``miscellany / reviews & awards'' section for more details.

Copyright © Gary William Flake, 1998-2002. All Rights Reserved. Last modified: 30 Nov 2002