Conway's Game of Life

Long time no post! (echo?)

A new train station in Cambridge has been doing the rounds around the interwebs, because it has a cellular automaton as decoration. It’s meant as an ode to John Conway, a former student of Cambridge University. As told in the following video, the decorations is a one dimensional cellular automaton, while Conway is famous for two dimensional ones, also called the Game of Life.

Now it’s difficult to have never heard of that, but I needed the explanation of the 1D cellular automaton to prompt me into looking up what exactly Conway’s Game of Life is. It’s much more interesting than I thought. Take the first line of Wikipedia’s description:

The “game” is a zero-player game, meaning that its evolution is determined by its initial state, requiring no further input.

A zero player game? It’s easy to see why it can be categorised as such, but still that is an interesting way of thinking about it. According to rules patterns evolve, and it turns out many emergent animations can come up, and even be sustained. In case this is new to you too, you owe it to yourself to browse around Wikipedia for a bit and see the kinds of structures that have been found: guns, gliders, puffers, glider shooting gun puffers. Holy sheeeeeiiitttt.