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Turtles, Termites and Traffic Jams by Mitchel Resnick

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<pre>Author/s : Mitchel Resnick
Publisher : MIT Press
Category : Marginalia
Review by : Frank Carver
Rating : 6 horseshoes
</pre>
Subtitled "explorations in massively parellel microworlds", this is a book describing the research of a team at MIT using a version of the educational language "Logo". Running in a simple graphical environment which supports multiple parallel operation of code in the same shared space. Write a few lines of code for an "ant", then let 1000 of them loose. The current version of this "StarLogo" system is written in Java, and available as a free download for anyone to play with.
The use of Logo is both a strength and a weakness of the approach. The strength is that the code is concise and easy to understand. The weakness is that there is only one source of the software, and anyone wishing to try it is limited to the available download. This would not be such a limitation if the book described the same version, but unfortunately things have moved on a lot since the book was written, and few (if any) of the examples will work without alteration.
As well as the development of the StarLogo system, the book covers experiments in emergent behaviour. Typical sections include how parameter and environment changes can affect the growth and development of simulated ant colonies, and a theoretical basis for those "phantom traffic jams" we have all experienced.
This book is certainly interesting if you are interested in developing parallel software simulations, or if you are interested in marginal computer languages, but don't expect the code to work without effort.


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