A New Kind of Science is on the iPad!

I spent a decade of my life writing A New Kind of Science. Most of that time was devoted to discovering the science in the book. But another part was spent figuring out how to present the science in the best possible way—using words and pictures.

It took a lot of technology to do that presentation. On the software side, the biggest part was using Mathematica to create elaborate algorithmic diagrams—thousands of them. But then came the question of how to actually deliver everything. And back in 2002 when A New Kind of Science was published, the only real possibility was to print a book on paper, using the very best printing technology of the time.

The actual print production process was quite an adventure—going right to the edge of what was possible. But in the end we got many compliments on the object we produced. And from that time to this, that 5.5 lb (2.5 kg) lump of paper has been the definitive representation of my decade-plus of intellectual work.

But today I’m excited to be able to say that there’s something new and in some ways even better: a full version on the iPad.
NKS book and its iPad version

When the iPad came out in April, I was involved in launching the Touch Press ebook publishing company. We’d had a basic version of A New Kind of Science on the web since 2003. And every time a new ebook reader had come out, I’d look to see if it could support a good version of the book.

The answer was always no. But the iPad was a completely different story.

Still, A New Kind of Science is a huge and complex book, and it was far from obvious that it could be delivered in a good way on the iPad without an unbelievable amount of work. But when we originally produced A New Kind of Science, we did it very carefully, with good clean software engineering. And, now, nearly a decade later, all that effort has paid off wonderfully in letting us build a version of A New Kind of Science for the iPad.

At the beginning I wasn’t sure what the experience of reading A New Kind of Science on an iPad would be like. But when I first actually saw it, there was one particular feature that got me really excited: it was easy to take any picture, and zoom in on it!Page 209 and its zoom

I and my assistants spent literally years producing all the diagrams in the book. But to keep the printed version to a manageable size (the 1280 pages of the book were the absolute limit for the binding technology we used), we had to print most of the diagrams quite small. Still, underneath, the algorithms we used generated incredible detail, most of which was invisible, except through the magnifying glass that I kept near my desk.

But now, with the iPad, I didn’t need that magnifying glass any more. I could just immediately use a couple of fingers to zoom in. And I went from page to page, looking at all sorts of diagrams, and seeing all those features that I last saw in fleeting moments more than a decade earlier on the screen of the NeXT computer on which I developed most of the book.

Many aspects of the science in the book rely on observation—on actually looking at systems in the computational universe. And I have no doubt that there are significant discoveries lurking in the details of many pictures in the book—that can now be exposed just by a simple zoom on the iPad.

There are other good things about having A New Kind of Science on the iPad too.

When I wrote A New Kind of Science, I broke it into two parts: the main text, which tells the core story of the science, and the notes, which give all sorts of details, background, and extra material—including some of my favorite technical and historical facts.

In the printed book, the notes had to be formatted quite small—and even so, they took up 300 pages. But they were so popular that we actually had to print a separate, large-format version of them. On the iPad, though, there’s no such issue; the notes are immediately accessible, and all nicely linked to the main text.

I’ve had a curious conundrum about A New Kind of  Science for the past 8 years. When I go places, should I take a copy of the book with me or not? It’s often really useful to be able to flip to some picture or another in the book. But even though I have special bags that fit the book alongside my computer, it’s a big nuisance to lug an extra 5.5 lbs (2.5 kg) around.

Well, now that conundrum is resolved. I just have to slip a 1.5 lb (700 g)  iPad into my bag—the very same iPad on which I can run the Wolfram|Alpha app, Touch Press books, and lots of other things. And immediately I’m carrying around a full version of A New Kind of Science. That I can refer to, show people, whatever.

I’m excited about the current iPad version of A New Kind of Science. And in the spectrum of current ebook presentations, I think it’s at the very high end. But there’s definitely more to be done. Between the Wolfram Demonstrations Project and Touch Press books, we can see a lot of ways to deliver dynamic computation in book form. And the good news is that with A New Kind of Science we already have the underlying Mathematica programs—all ready to integrate with the new technologies that we’re developing.

Many books are written just for the couple of months that (if they’re lucky) they sit at the front of a bookstore. I wrote A New Kind of Science for the long term.  And as delivery technologies evolve, I look forward to seeing the presentation of the book evolve with them. The iPad version that we’re now releasing is a huge step—that I hope will allow a new level of engagement with the book and the science it contains.

Posted in: New Kind of Science


  1. Excellent news! I just bought my copy of NKS Book to my iPad.

    Now, I can carry my NKS Book every time, without additional weight on my bag.

    Thank you ever so much, Stephen Wolfram!

  2. I am not an Apple fanatic. Is your ebook available in epub or html version. I have a netbook, but assume that screen may be too small. I am considering one of the newer (to come even) tablets types.

  3. What about a version for those of us who choose NOT to enter Mr. Jobs’ walled garden?

  4. What about a Kindle version please? Not all people are evenly fanatic about apple.

  5. I own two copies of NKS because it was too big to carry around. Time to go buy an iPad!

  6. Hi,
    Im a huge fan of ANKoS, please let me know if you plan
    to release an android tablet version.



  7. Fantastic, didn’t hesitate one moment getting it. Thanks Mr Wolfram.

  8. Though I avidly follow all things Apple, the thought of owning an iPad hadn’t previously crossed my mind. Stephen, today after reading your NKS iPad post the duo went straight to the top of my wish list!

  9. Just bought my copy, great!


  10. How about a detailed “Mathematica” book for the iPad?

    We’ve been asking for the Mathematica book in PDF format for years !!

  11. the future of ebooks is not images of static pages. the ipad version of NKS should have an integrated engine that can run and display the automata as they are being discussed in the text, or at least animated/video presentations.

  12. I am a sucker for great illustrations and , yes, the book’s illustrations work great in the iPad format.

  13. Awesome..!

    Mathematica itself was (is, & will ALWAYS be ! ) a master-piece of ART…melding together the best of Algorithms, Science, & engineering, & providing more & more Dynamic Interactivity to allow us to explore the Universe(numerical or otherwise)..!

    This is yet another welcome development–though, I hope you try & take NKS to ALL other classes of ppl via other media..!

    But this promises to spawn a new level of interactivity & fun..!

    Kudos & THANKS to YOU & All ur Wolfram-ites..!! 🙂

    Best Wishes,

  14. And of-course, I agree completely with Dana above…

    A new, “Concise” Mathematica book could be wonderful indeed..! 🙂
    {Because, I Do realize that with its massive collection of functionality now, producing a single book is very hard…}

    Or perhaps, in multiple volumes…?? 🙂

  15. I agree with most above comments. I also own multiple copies of NKS for reading, sharing & lugging around. Cheers on the release of your iPad version, though despite it’s ability to render NKS in an improved manner, the iPad does raise some serious concerns for the future of open computing.
    I would like to request an Android version so, I can access it at all times from my pocket. This would be tremendously useful for all the times I reference NKS in casual conversation but, cannot pull out a digestible quote, much less simply show someone what a cellular automaton looks like.
    I have taught NKS in a classroom setting, projecting the online version for reference and the thought of a zoomable version is truly exciting, especially if not tied to a single platform.

  16. I do not have an ipad or a plan to buy one. But I have gained endless hours of enjoyment from reading the hard copy! What a tour de force!

  17. A version of the book for the iPad that integrated the earlier NKoS explorer software would be a considerable improvement to this already interesting text.

    • Hi gregory,

      Thanks for posting your suggestion! We are working toward adding this feature, and many others, to A New Kind of Science for the iPad. We will keep you updated new features like this one become available.

      Stephanie Prather
      Wolfram Research

  18. Thank you! On my way to the app store now. Have to be in a car for 20 hours next weekend. Now, I almost can’t wait!

  19. I just purchased a “hard copy” of NKS. While I certainly appreciate making this available on the IPad (both for the price and for the ability to see figures and notes more clearly), I personally find it more satisfying to read a book the “old-fashioned” way. Indeed, I much prefer getting Mathematica “help” by reading an old copy of the Mathematica Book (3rd Edition) — if I could get my hands on a copy of the final, 5th, edition (at a reasonable price), I’d probably buy it! I realize that all of the information in the Mathematica books is also in the (excellent) Help system — I just find it much easier to grasp on the printed page, probably because of the care taken with the graphical layout and the “information density” on the printed page. [Perhaps if I had a Giant Monitor capable of displaying several full book pages at the same time …]

    I’m looking forward to using Mathematica to try some of the NKS “experiments” for myself — there’s nothing like doing your own exploration to get a grip on the “fun and excitement” of a New Kind of Science.

  20. This is a long shot but I have to ask will this App run on a Mac. I read an old article by on iMore from 2010 that said this might happen. Just hopin’. Requested Amazon add the book as an e-book early today. Read the intro. Wanted to read the whole thing or as much as my small brain will allow. Played with Wolfram-Alpha with some genome stuff. Wanted the book this morning.

  21. Hopefully an Android version is coming soon.

  22. Android and Windows 8 would be great.

  23. I wanted to stop by to say thanks for producing NKS for the iPad. I’m a little late to the party, but as a philosopher, we are not necessarily known to be timely. As useful as the iPad version is for graphics and portability, I can’t use it as my primary research organ. One can’t take notes in the app, nor bookmark pages. Otherwise it is perfectly functional. I can leave it open to your notes while reading the primary book.

    A note on the web site: The link to purchase the book on the iPad from the iPad leaves the user with a spinning gear on the iTunes Store instead of the App Store item.

  24. Will the app be updated with apple pencil capabilities? I have found myself taking notes and marking in my physical ex of the book, it would be very good to have the same capability in the app. Preferably with the pages (the notes taken in “writing format”) getting transferred to the notes app notes or something, so one can access them from everywhere. Or a designated notes folder inside the app to quickly being able to look up with one have written.

    • Thanks for this suggestion! It has been passed on to the relevant developers. Please note, though, that the mobile version of A New Kind of Science works wonderfully and has many useful features.