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Topic: Wolfram's 2,3 Turing Machine Is Universal!
Replies: 13   Last Post: Oct 28, 2007 8:55 PM

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Ben Rudiak-Gould

Posts: 210
Registered: 2/2/05
Re: Wolfram's 2,3 Turing Machine Is Universal!
Posted: Oct 25, 2007 5:57 PM
  Click to see the message monospaced in plain text Plain Text   Click to reply to this topic Reply wrote:
> Wolfram seems, to me at least, to believe his work is hugely important
> (even more important than James Harris' ? ). I'm not qualified to
> judge whether or not he's a crackpot, though clearly his success in
> other areas would mark him as if very unusual crackpot if that were
> the case.

His work is not important. I'd tend to classify him as a crank. He's
arrogant (as you noted) and ignorant (of the prior art). I liked this review
of the book:

> I genuinely want to know if anything significant has been
> discovered due to ANKOS that otherwise might not have been.

Not in the sense of ANKOS contributing materially to the discovery, since it
didn't contribute anything to the field of computer science. Someone might
have read it and been inspired to do research they wouldn't otherwise have
done, and discovered something that wouldn't otherwise have been discovered.
I don't know of any example of that happening, and it could just as well
happen with The Da Vinci Code.

ANKOS seems to be a lot like memetics. My impression (which may be totally
wrong) is that they've both attracted a lot of people who want to do
research but aren't part of the academic system and probably couldn't get
hired in it. They set up their own journals and conferences and do research
as a hobby. They basically have the field to themselves because it's not
really a new field of study; they're duplicating work the real academics
have already done. I don't know if this has a name ("indie science"?) or if
it's been studied (by, er, real sociologists), or if it's all in my mind.

In any event, I'm sure this proof is real and that it's a new result. It's
not a very important result, since lots of simple computationally universal
systems are already known. This one just happens to be a cellular automaton
of the kind that Wolfram is keenly interested in for some reason. I don't
think it would have attracted much interest among serious researchers if not
for the prize money.

My favorite computationally universal automaton is SMETANA:

Someone explicitly constructed a Turing machine in it a few years ago. You
need an infinite (algorithmically generated) program for this, though, since
a finite program can only be in finitely many states. Malbolge has also been
shown universal with caveats:

And Conway's Life was proven universal ages ago; I think all of those are
more interesting than this new result. By the way, if you haven't been
following the progress in Life technology over the last couple decades,
download Golly ( and play with the included examples.
Now /that's/ cool indie research.

-- Ben

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