Epic Conway's Game of Life
November 5, 2013 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Epic Conway's Game of Life. Sure, there's been lots of Conway's Life stuff on MeFi previously [1 2 3], but this squeezes a lot of awesome stuff into a short video.
posted by Wolfdog (26 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
If you already know how Conway's GoL works, start at 1:10.
posted by zamboni at 6:43 AM on November 5, 2013

Cool. Previously, a link to Conway's game of life implemented in Conway's game of life, which I found kind of mind-blowing.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:45 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Holy crap, that one that spells out GOLLY. Just wow.
posted by Runes at 6:52 AM on November 5, 2013

Game of Life is awesome. This is a pretty great video and I love to see dedicated gamers create beauty like this.

Also, the theme from Requiem for a Dream is the comic sans of internet soundtracks, and I kinda even prefer comic sans.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:58 AM on November 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

Google also has a neat easter egg if you search for Conway's Game of Life.
posted by polywomp at 7:12 AM on November 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

My favorite Life setups are the ones that tell a story that has a beginning and ending.
posted by straight at 7:53 AM on November 5, 2013

Holy crap, that one that spells out GOLLY.

describing the function of each pattern used in the "Golly Ticker"
posted by zamboni at 8:00 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I like the Base Star manufacturing and sending out a continuous stream of Cylon Raiders.

Can someone explain to me the thinking that goes into making this happen? How do you come up with a cloud of cells that makes just the right pattern of little shooters to bump into one another in just the right order in the center and form a symmetrical ship-looking thing that actually moves forward?

It seems like the sort of project that you couldn't iterate up from smaller pieces and I'd be very interested to know how you set about making it.

I've dabbled in Life before and I understand the rules, but all I've ever been able to make is sometimes-stable randomness.
posted by gauche at 8:03 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

gauche, see how you go with the explanation of how the Golly Ticker works.
posted by zamboni at 8:09 AM on November 5, 2013

Yeah, I was just looking at that link. Should have previewed.
posted by gauche at 8:10 AM on November 5, 2013

Someone needs to make a MetaFilter ticker.
posted by pracowity at 8:13 AM on November 5, 2013

Also, the theme from Requiem for a Dream is the comic sans of internet soundtracks, and I kinda even prefer comic sans.

But the Terrible Importance!
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:36 AM on November 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

gauche, conway and others were building complex systems from the very beginning. check out chapter 25 in winning ways volume 4. they figured out the earliest patterns using paper and pencil, and they proved turing machine-ness using late '60s computers. the mind boggles.
posted by bruceo at 9:34 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was in college, the last assignment we had in the 1st semester computer science class was to implement Conway's game of Life in Pascal. We didn't have to have an infinite board and the output was on Televideo text terminal running at a whopping 2400 baud connected to a vax 750. Since I finished the base assignment early, I pulled out the manuals for the terminal and put in an interactive cell editor as well as a fade-in splash screen. I kept a hard copy of my source and two years later, I met John Conway at a talk he was giving at Bell Communications Research in Morristown. I had him autograph the printout.

A year or so later, I had some down time, so I hacked together a version in 6502 assembly language to run on the Apple ][ series of computers. For the implementation, I ended up inventing the display list and using exclusive-or drawing, was able to kill/generate cells at the same time on update. I pulled the data from the floppies recently and made the code open-source. Oddly enough, all the comments in the code are what I wrote originally.

Many years later, I was working for a company that was making a VRML engine. I was working on the Java scripting side and for a demo I implemented life using a set of cubes in a plane as output. The implementation had touch sensors on the cubes so you could manually change the state and the cells changed color based on the "age" of the cell. That implementation, running in Java/VRML on a 200MHz PC with a software polygon renderer ran faster than the Apple ][ version.
posted by plinth at 12:11 PM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

This thing has been on Reddit (and probably here, too) several times, but I was amazed at Life in APL
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:23 PM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

1:10: Gliders. The simplest and fastest "spaceship," arrangements of counters that reproduce themselves some distance away after a number of generations, so they appear to move across the board.

1:21: A glider gun. An arrangement that manufactures, or "shoots," gliders. This was a big find when it was first discovered, it proved there are Life populations that grow without limit; those gliders will continue onward until the end of time, and nothing stops the gun from making more indefinitely.

1:38: Two glider guns arranged so that their gliders collide with each other and vanish.

1:46: More glider guns.

1:56: Off-screen guns (interacting with the nearly structures, which are not as random as they first appear) shoot at each other in a way that, ultimately, produces horizontally-moving spaceships.

2:08: A zoomed-out view of the structure from 1:56.

2:16: Zoomed out even further, to see the whole thing.

2:40: I am not sure, it might be part of the computation apparatus some people have worked up.

2:58: Seems to be a bunch of large spaceships.

3:02: Spaceships leaving a gigantic, expanding stable region as "exhaust."

3:09: Some cycling patterns, shooting gliders that get nullified, endlessly.

3:14: Shooting larger diagonally-moving spaceships so they get nullified, like the gliders.

3:16: A large spaceship, like the ones from 3:02, that leaves a stable area behind it, which "decays" through contact with some other counters.

3:19: Some miscellaneous counters, I don't know the significance, there's some horizontal spaceships passing through though, it might be a logic gate.

3:21: Close up of some counters.

3:27: Large setup that produces a stream of diagonal spaceships.

3:32: More annihilating gliders, from here I'm just going to point out the more interesting things I recognize.

3:40: A cyclic system. All systems that can fire annihilating gliders endlessly without leaving "exhaust" or other garbage counters are cyclic, but this one is a more general pattern.

3:46: More cyclic systems. So long as they aren't too close to each other, you can have any number of repeating patterns in the same universe, each spinning along heedless of the others.

3:52: Gliders produced, then reflected around, until they collide in a way that forms a different, horizontally-moving spaceship.

3:59: A banner printer. I think there's a system that can be used to produce arbitrary patterns of spaceships, that's what's being used for this.

4:07: (The one with the numbers.) Appears to show off some long-lived, but ultimately unstable, configurations. (Except for the one in the upper-left, which cycles.)

4:22: Shows off the destruction that be wrought by a tiny bit of garbage in a stable field, expanding outward at the "speed of light." BTW, technically big empty areas are just another kind of stable field, so ever-expanding patterns are actually the same kind of thing, although empty areas are much more "natural," by which I mean, more likely to result from patterns, than regular stable patterns of counters.

4:28: Closeup of spaceships creating a large stable region.

4:33: Factories creating streams of counters expanding in one direction.

4:42: A large, slow-moving spaceship, "shot at" by a glider factory. It reflects it back though.

4:58: Large-scale view. I think this is a system similar to that in 3:02, but where the garbage (which can spread at the speed of light) overtakes the spaceships that produce the stable region (which can at most travel at 1/4 of the speed of light).

5:04: Check this out. A fleet of spaceships, leaving as exhaust other spaceships, which leave strings of their own stable exhaust.

5:11: More trading off glider producers, we've seen it before. Actually, all of the patterns shown in this video must have taken a lot of work to originally discover. Presenting them all together like this makes each seem like an ordinary, even trivial, thing.

5:16: A large spaceship leaving miscellaneous counters in its wake.

5:29: Huge fleets of spaceships, traveling through the universe. This description also fits several of the following scenes. The one at 5:42 produces exhaust that are themselves more spaceships.
posted by JHarris at 12:27 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I once wrote a computer game on the C64 that used the Life rules. The idea was to nudge the system into meeting certain requirements (total population, specific spaces having counters, killing everything off, etc) by dropping in or removing new counters in real time. It tried to help the player by using the "extended background color" mode of the hardware to give the player a hint as to which spaces to place counters, but I think ultimately the game was kind of a failure, even though Fender bought it and it got published in Loadstar.
posted by JHarris at 12:31 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

How can it be epic if it doesn't end with a video of Life running Life?

Also, having seen 'Requiem for a Dream', the original video just makes me think of sticking needles into giant hideous abscesses.
posted by egypturnash at 3:37 PM on November 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh you kids nowadays and your fancy Golly app and high rez, you don't know how easy you have it. Back when I was a kid, running an 8080A 2mHz microcomputer, we didn't have no stinking spaceships and fireworks and galaxies. We had blinkers and gliders on a 64x64 grid. And we liked it!
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:09 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've dabbled in Life before and I understand the rules, but all I've ever been able to make is sometimes-stable randomness.

God, I know that feeling.
posted by Grangousier at 2:38 AM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

gauche: "I've dabbled in Life before and I understand the rules, but all I've ever been able to make is sometimes-stable randomness."

Also applies to real life amirite?
posted by ArgentCorvid at 10:04 AM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

On only being able to make semi-stable randomness --

From what I remember from the old Mathematical Games columns, for a while they thought the only possible long-term behaviors was finding a stable configuration (like dying completely out for reducing to 2x2 squares) or, rarely, pulsing (cycling between patterns). It took the creation of the glider gun to demonstrate that populations could grow without end, and that required a lot of work in the days of early computers. You can bet a lot of work went into discovering the patterns shown in the video, by lots of people. Just randomly stumbling on something really really cool (if it's not done in a systematic way) is unlikely.
posted by JHarris at 12:35 PM on November 6, 2013

Yeah, one of the fascinating things about this is that in one sense some of these things are discovered, like the behavior of the pi-heptomino: it's just there as a result of the rules (and I doubt Conway chose the rules deliberately so that a pi shape would do that).

On the other hand, the GOLLY banner is clearly something a human being created, using the rules of Life, and yet there's also a sense in which it was already there to be discovered just like the pi-heptomino.
posted by straight at 4:23 PM on November 6, 2013

There's probably a generalized "banner printing" configuration out there somewhere, and they just adapted it to pring G(symbol)LLY.

Ah, here you go.
posted by JHarris at 5:07 PM on November 6, 2013

I guess at some point it's the equivalent of saying that since the properties of atoms are just there, existing, waiting to be discovered, that therefore Apple "discovered" the iPod as one of the possible configurations of atoms.
posted by straight at 6:34 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

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