Short works

Books : reviews

John L. Casti.
Alternate Realities: mathematical models of nature and man.
Wiley. 1989

(read but not reviewed)

John L. Casti.
Paradigms Lost: images of man in the mirror of science.
Abacus. 1989

John L. Casti, Anders Karlqvist, eds.
Boundaries and Barriers: on the limits of scientific knowledge.
Perseus. 1996

Are there scientific problems that cannot be solved? Mathematics is riddled with such problems, but can we pose analogous questions outside of mathematics? Does nature itself impose fundamental limits on our knowledge of the universe? Despite the work of some of the greatest minds of the twentieth century, no one really knows.

In May 1995 this profound and far-reaching concern brought together a small but select group of scientists in a remote scientific outpost in Abisko, Sweden, a village far north of the Arctic Circle. Boundaries and Barriers captures the spirit—and the content—of the talks given at the meeting. Included are contributions by John Barrow on the limits of science, John Casti on the search for the “unknowable” in science, James Hartle on quantum cosmology, Harold Morowitz on complexity and epistemology, and six more fascinating chapters that illuminate the possible limits to what we can know by using the tools of science. The issues discussed here challenge the very foundations of science, but the conclusions are optimistic. When the dust clears, science remains standing—our best bet for understanding the way the world works.


John D. Barrow. Limits of science. 1996
John L. Casti. The outer limits: in search of the "unknowable" in science. 1996
Newton C. A. da Costa, Francisco Antonio Doria. Variations on an original theme. 1996
Walter Fontana, Leo W. Buss. The barrier of objects: from dynamical systems to bounded organizations. 1996
James B. Hartle. Scientific knowledge from the perspective of quantum cosmology. 1996
Piet Hut. Structuring reality: the role of limits. 1996
Harold J. Morowitz. Complexity and epistemology. 1996
Robert Rosen. On the limitiations of scientific knowledge. 1996
Karl Svozil. Undecidability everywhere?. 1996
Joseph F. Traub. On reality and models. 1996

John L. Casti.
Would-Be Worlds: how simulation is changing the frontiers of science.
Wiley. 1997

Cristian S. Calude, John L. Casti, Michael J. Dinneen, eds.
Unconventional Models of Computation, UMC'98: Auckland, New Zealand.
Springer. 1998


Martyn Amos, Steve Wilson, David A. Hodgson, Gerald Owenson, Alan Gibbons. Practical Implementation of DNA Computations. 1998
Artur Ekert, Chiara Macchiavello. An Overview of Quantum Computing. 1998
H. Jeff Kimble. Implementing Quantum Logic and Communication via Cavity QED. 1998
Seth Lloyd. Unconventional Quantum Computing Devices. 1998
Cristopher Moore. Finite-Dimensional Analog Computers: Flows, Maps, and Recurrent Neural Networks. 1998
John H. Reif. Paradigms for Biomolecular Computation. 1998
Arto Salomaa. Turing, Watson-Crick and Lindenmayer. Aspects of DNA Complementarity. 1998
Gordon Alford. Explicitly Constructing Universal Extended H Systems. 1998
Mark H. Butler, Raymond C. Paton, Paul H. Leng. Unconventional Approaches for Biologically Inspired Computing. 1998
Elena Calude, Marjo Lipponen. Deterministic Incomplete Automata: Simulation, Universality and Complementarity. 1998
B. Jack Copeland. Even Turing Machines Can Compute Uncomputable Functions. 1998
Michael Frank, Thomas F. Knight Jr, Norman H. Margolus. Reversibility in Optimally Scalable Computer Architectures. 1998
Michael Frank, Carlin Vieri, M. Josephine Ammer, Nicole Love, Norman H. Margolus, Thomas F. Knight Jr. A Scalable Reversible Computer in Silicon. 1998
Rudolf Freund, Valeria Mihalache. Molecular Computations on Circular and Linear Strings. 1998
Yuzhen Ge, Layne T. Watson, Emmanuel G. Collins Jr.. Genetic Algorithms for Optimization on a Quantum Computer. 1998
Karl Gustafson. Ergodic Learning Algorithms. 1998
Peter Herding. Embedding Cellular Automata into Reversible Ones. 1998
Thomas F. Knight Jr, Gerald Jay Sussman. Cellular Gate Technology. 1998
Alexandru Mateescu. Splicing on Routes: a Framework of DNA Computation. 1998
Hideaki Matsueda. Spatiotemporal Evolution of Quantum Entangled Pure States in Quantum Computing Solid Block Circuits. 1998
Lakshmi Narayanaswamy, Peter M. Kogge. Combinators and Processing-In-Memory: An Unconventional Basis for Avoiding the Memory Wall. 1998
Mitsunori Ogihara, Animesh Ray. The Minimum DNA Computation Model and Its Computational Power. 1998
Gheorghe Paun. Distributed Architectures in DNA Computing Based on Splicing: Limiting the Size of Components. 1998
Boris S. Pavlov, Gary Roach, Adil Yafyasov. Resonance Scattering and Design of Quantum Gates. 1998
Yuzuru Sato, Makoto Taiji, Takashi Ikegami. Self-Similar Sets as Satisfiable Boolean Expressions. 1998
Karl Svozil. The Church-Turing Thesis as a Guiding Principle for Physics. 1998
Carlin Vieri, M. Josephine Ammer, Amory Wakefield, Lars "Johnny" Svensson, William Athas, Thomas F. Knight Jr. Designing Reversible Memory. 1998
Herbert Wiklicky. Quantitative Computation by Hilbert Machines. 1998

John L. Casti, Anders Karlqvist, eds.
Mission to Abisko: stories and myths in the creation of scientific "truth".
Perseus. 1999

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 12 August 2001

The 1997 annual Abisko seminar brought together scientists and science fiction writers to discuss the use and importance of narrative in science. This collects together some of the participants' papers. Most are interesting, but maybe not quite long enough to develop their ideas in full. I suspect the conference itself was quite fun.

All the participants agree that story-telling is important in how we understand science, at whatever level. The fiction writers also reckon that SF is important for insulating us from surprises when new technology appears in our lives, for allowing us to have already had the ethical debates in fiction. However, Paul McAuley points out that the media and the public tend to go for the emotional horror slant, rather than the more rational SFnal perspective -- so maybe SF insulates only SF fans?


John D. Barrow. The Analogy of Nature. 1999
Scientists use analogies to describe nature; this may be limiting what theories they can come up with. There may be no analogies for deep theories.
Greg Bear. Proving the Dream. 1999
How science fiction and science work together to change the future
Gregory Benford. Beyond this Horizon: envisioning the next century, or stories of our (preventable?) future(s). 1999
The 20th century saw incredible advances due to physics; the 21st will see even more, due to biology.
John L. Casti. The Cambridge Quintet: the chronicle of an experiment in 'scientific fiction'. 1999
The reasons for using 'scientific fiction' to explain science
Jack Cohen. Becoming Maureen -- a story of development. 1999
The importance, and difficulty, of understanding process. [I felt I was coming in at the second part of some larger story.]
Per-A. Johansson. Algorithmic and Asthetic Storytelling: alternative approaches to imagination and reality. 1999
Our current scientific, or "algorithmic" style of story telling doesn't cover everything -- we still need stories of how to live our lives. [Unfortunately, from my point of view, Johansson has a god in these stories. I do feel we need these higher level stories, but I prefer ones we explicitly construct for ourselves, rather than ones attempting to discern some non-existent Platonic ideal.]
Kjell Jonsson. Einstein at the Amusement Park: the public story of relativity in Swedish culture. 1999
Einstein's theories of relativity were not well-received in Sweden, neither by the Nobel Committee, nor by the scientific community
Anders Karlqvist. Telling Science. 1999
There are at least four different levels for communicating science, depending on the audience -- and all four are valuable
Paul J. McAuley. Frankenstein's Daughters. 1999
SF looks at scientific advances neutrally -- story outcomes may be good or bad. Horror starts with the emotional "yuk" factor, and it's always bad. And now science is advancing so fast that we are running out of SF stories to prepare us for the future.
Larry Niven. Mission to Abisko. 1999
A personal journal of his last-minute attendance at the conference
Ian Stewart. Secret Narratives of Mathematics. 1999
A plea that mathematicians pay attention to the narrative structure of their proofs, telling a compelling, understandable "story", rather than just concentrating on the "syntax"

John L. Casti.
Five More Golden Rules.
Wiley. 2000

The Alexander Polynomial: knot theory
The Hopf Bifurcation Theorem: dynamical system theory
The Kalman Filter: control theory
The Hahn-Banach Theorem: functional analysis
The Shannon Coding Theorem: information theory

John L. Casti.
Paradigms Regained: a further exploration of the mysteries of modern science.
Little, Brown. 2000