Thursday, August 04, 2005

Game of Life

The Game of Life (or simply Life) is not a game in the conventional sense. There are no players, and no winning or losing. Once the "pieces" are placed in the starting position, the rules determine everything that happens later. Nevertheless, Life is full of surprises! In most cases, it is impossible to look at a starting position (or pattern) and see what will happen in the future. The only way to find out is to follow the rules of the game.
BackgroundLife was invented by the mathematician John Conway in 1970. He choose the rules carefully after trying many other possibilities, some of which caused the cells to die too fast and others which caused too many cells to be born. Life balances these tendencies, making it hard to tell whether a pattern will die out completely, form a stable population, or grow forever.
Life is just one example of a cellular automaton, which is any system in which rules are applied to cells and their neighbors in a regular grid.
There has been much recent interest in cellular automata, a field of mathematical research. Life is one of the simplest cellular automata to have been studied, but many others have been invented, often to simulate systems in the real world.
In addition to the original rules, Life can be played on other kinds of grids with more complex patterns. There are rules for playing on hexagons arranged in a honeycomb pattern, and games where cells can have more than two states (imagine live cells with different colors).
Life is probably the most often programmed computer game in existence. There are many different variations and information on the web. (See the Paul Callahan's home page for more information.)

2 Comments:

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