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Stephen Wolfram’s TED Talk: Computation Is Destined to Be the Defining Idea of Our Future

April 27, 2010 — Wolfram Blog Team

We use this blog as a vehicle to highlight many of our big ideas and discoveries. Today we’re pleased to share with you Stephen Wolfram‘s talk from the 2010 TED Conference in Long Beach, California, where he talked about the tools and methods he’s spent the last 30 years developing in his quest to explore computational knowledge.

TED, an organization devoted to bringing together the technology, entertainment, and design industries’ most innovative thinkers to present “Ideas Worth Sharing”, recently shared Stephen’s ideas with the world as a “TED Talk of the Day”. In the signature 18-minute video, Stephen discusses how his lifelong scientific pursuits led to the development of Mathematica, A New Kind of Science, and the computational knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha. He continues, asking new questions and proposing a fourth project—discovering our physical universe through our computational universe.

“Will we find the whole of physics? I don’t know for sure. But I think at this point it’s sort of almost embarrassing not to at least try.” —Stephen Wolfram

Click to view the transcript and slides from Stephen’s talk.

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Do somebody know something about the “simplest universal cellular automaton” at 4′ 25″?? The Mystery of the Simplest Universal Cellular Automaton: http://theunitedpersons.org/blog/simplest-universal-cellular-automaton

Posted by Peter    April 28, 2010 at 9:24 am

I’m researching ‘layman programming’ ; Stephen is talking about this; is there any way to play with this using alpha/mathematica yet or is it though/vapor-ware?

Posted by john    April 30, 2010 at 11:35 pm

OT: You did something bad to embedded YouTube video, because it doesn’t work on iPad (YT videos on other sites work).

Posted by hdj    May 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm
    Wolfram Blog Team

    Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We are currently working on finding a solution.

    Posted by Wolfram Blog Team    May 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Thank you for inspiration by this amazing lecture Mr Stephen Wolfram

Posted by Luke    May 6, 2010 at 3:07 am

I like this very much

Posted by www.mymobileforums.com    May 7, 2010 at 12:08 am
Owen Cunningham

Hello, toward the end of Wolfram’s lecture it sounds like he is encouraging people to help him search the space of all possible programs for the one(s) that underpin reality. How do I join up with his effort? I submitted a paper to the same FQXi contest he did, and in mine I offered up a design for a hybrid fractal/cellular automaton that both consumes and generates graph-theoretic space. I believe this design could be a contender for the type of program he’s looking for. Please advise. Thank you, Owen Cunningham

Posted by Owen Cunningham    May 10, 2010 at 10:32 am

Reality is not a computer algorithm or model or program. Nothing in science implies that it is. Computation based on models derived from real-world experimentation have value; theoretical models of theoretical systems not based on reality have no value.

Posted by Bob    June 2, 2010 at 11:09 am


I think you miss Wolfram’s point. If simple algorithms are the foundation of nature, then simple algorithms would be the reality.

The problem is Wolfram seems to come up with lots of examples of how nature follows these simple algorithms to generate these complex systems, but there is no solid theory that is set up to make predictions that otherwise would not be able to be made. That’s my beef with NKS.

Posted by Mark    June 4, 2010 at 3:43 pm
carl j schwartz md

very mundane question:
can’t load your app for Wolframalpha on to my Iphone 3g. Any secrets or just a bug of sorts?

Posted by carl j schwartz md    June 10, 2010 at 1:51 pm
Derek Moore

i really like this theory about everything.

Posted by Derek Moore    June 13, 2010 at 9:27 am
Phil Earnhardt

I would love if the Mathematica Demonstrations engine were available on the iTunes store for the iPad. Mathematica is the premiere way to visualize mathematical and physical principles, and the iPad is a great way to show and tell such visualizations.

Posted by Phil Earnhardt    August 3, 2010 at 8:06 pm
Peter Konopka

I have a math problem….it looks simple but I need your help….here goes….it deals with a circle.
If the radius=1 and if I wanted to cover 25 percent of the area of the circle from the bottom tangent point….how high would that line be that is parallel with the diameter.

Posted by Peter Konopka    November 15, 2010 at 7:40 pm

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