The Game of Life
January 27, 2002 3:06 PM   Subscribe

The Game of Life is a mathematical 'game' which demonstrates how incredibly complex and chaotic patterns can emerge from a few simple rules. This site contains some truly staggering examples of just how complex things can get (click on the 'enjoy life' button to run the Java Applet). Here's an explanation of how the game works.
posted by astro38 (10 comments total)
This didn't get interesting (to me) until I used the zoom to go out to a factor of only 1. Then I could see how complicated a simple pattern became, without losing it off the edges of the grid. Once I did that, it was much more visually compelling.

Try a long straight line for some truly staggering complex patterns.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:27 PM on January 27, 2002

Smashing gliders into things is always good for a laugh.
posted by Ptrin at 6:07 PM on January 27, 2002

That sure brings back some memories. I had a class assignment to write that in Fortran for the VAX 11/780 back in college. It was done on a 20x20 grid and each generation was printed (yes printed) on wide greenbar paper. You had to kill it after 100 or so generations so you didn't kill a box of paper--those line printers were pretty fast. It sure looks cool to see thousands of generations zip by in seconds on today's PCs.
posted by AstroGuy at 6:54 PM on January 27, 2002

The FPP-linked site seems to be MeFi'ed. But the game is practically prehistoric in internet terms -- it was first popularized in Martin Gardner's Mathematical Games column in Scientific American around 30 years ago.

Other applets where you can experiment with the concept are easily googled.
posted by dhartung at 7:31 PM on January 27, 2002

"Bah!" my father scoffed, "in MY day we used to play that game on graph paper. In school we used to spend hours on it and it was infinitely more satisfying than just pushing some dumb button. Where's the fun in that?"

my father did actually learn the game in a high school math class when he was young, but he would never say such a silly thing.
posted by clockwork at 8:39 PM on January 27, 2002

copy a post from my weblog a few days back:
Conway's Game of Life has an interesting history, which includes a newsletter, a Yahoo catagory, and a cool program.
posted by j.edwards at 8:42 PM on January 27, 2002

For those looking for a little more godlike power in their life manipulations, there's StarLogo, developed by Mitchel Resnick (co-author of the aforementioned Exploring Emergence) and his students at the Media Lab. The sample projects page provides a good overview of what StarLogo can do.
posted by jkottke at 9:12 PM on January 27, 2002

I remember using logo on apple ][gs when I was 9 years old. Most fun I ever had with math.
posted by atom128 at 9:56 PM on January 27, 2002

John Conway worked the original version on a checkerboard with coins.
I first encountered it my freshman year in college when it was an assignment for the first semester Pascal course. It was fascinating. I kept my final listing (LIFF.PAS[sic]), and several years later got it autographed when I attended a lecture by Conway.

I also did an implementation for the Apple II as a challenge to see how fast I could get generations to go in HiRES without resorting to page-switching. I think I ended up getting about 4 fps depending on how many cells were on the screen and how far apart they were.

There was also a killer implementation for the Amiga which used the blitter to do the calculations in hardware and could do 19.8 generations per second independent of the number of cells, which is pretty sweet.
posted by plinth at 9:38 AM on January 28, 2002

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