Conway’s Game of Life

By Deane Barker on September 2, 2004

Exploring Emergence: A lot of you have probably heard about Conway’s Game of Life. This link does a great job at explanating the theories behind the game step-by-step. Very well done. If you’re ever “played” the game and wondered why it matters, wander through his “tutorial.”

For those that have no idea what Conway’s Game of Life is —

No, it’s not the board game — this is the “cellular automaton” that’s usually implemented as a Java applet. There’s a grid, so each block (“cell”) in the grid has eight neighbors. Each block is also on or off (“lit” or “unlit”; “alive” or dead”) Here are the rules:

The transitions depend only on the number of live neighbours: A dead cell with exactly 3 live neighbours becomes alive (or is “born”). A live cell with 2 or 3 live neighbours stays alive; otherwise it dies (from “loneliness” or “overcrowding”).

So, that’s the theory, and it can be fun to watch little “colonies” spark to life or wither and die as time progresses. Again, the link above explains the concept much better than I could. Check it out.

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