Thursday, August 04, 2005

LifeLab

LifeLab is a Mac application for exploring John Conway's Game of Life and other cellular automata. CAs were first studied in the mid-1950s by Stanislaw Ulam and John von Neumann. The subject became much more widely known in 1970 when Life was described by Martin Gardner in his Scientific American column.
Life is played on an arbitrary-sized grid of square cells. Each cell has two states: "dead" or "alive". The state of every cell changes from one "generation" to the next according to the states of its 8 nearest neighbors: a dead cell becomes alive (a "birth") if it has exactly 3 live neighbors; a live cell dies out if it has less than 2 or more than 3 live neighbors. The "game" of Life simply involves starting off with a pattern of live cells and watching it evolve.
Even though the rules for Life are completely deterministic, it is impossible to predict whether an arbitrary starting pattern will die out, or start oscillating, or fill the grid. Life and other CAs provide a powerful demonstration of how a very simple system can generate extremely complicated behavior.

System requirements
LifeLab is a Carbonized app that runs natively on OS X. It also runs on OS 8.6/9.x if CarbonLib 1.3 or later is installed.

Main features
Change the rules and examine other forms of Life.
1D rules are also supported (using Wolfram's numbering scheme).
Change the grid topology: plane, torus, Klein bottle, etc.
View/edit/generate patterns at all power-of-two scales from 8 pixels per cell to 64 cells per pixel.
Automatic shifting and grid expansion if a pattern gets too big.
Automatic deletion of isolated gliders.
Automatic detection of oscillators and spaceships.
Search for new oscillators, spaceships, still lifes or methuselahs.
Cut/copy/paste patterns via the clipboard.
Read patterns in a variety of file formats.

Shareware fee and support
LifeLab is shareware, which means you are welcome to try it out before buying it. If you decide to keep it then please pay the shareware fee:
$20 for individuals.
$200 for groups (like a school or university).
You can pay by check, cash or credit card at the secure Kagi Online Order site, or you can use the Register app supplied with LifeLab.
I provide email support to registered users, so send all your comments, queries and suggestions to andrew@trevorrow.com.

Download the latest version
To download the latest version of LifeLab (4.4), click here [272K]. The archive contains the application, a Read Me file, a Register folder, and a Patterns folder with a small collection of interesting patterns.
NOTE: A much larger pattern collection is available to registered users on request.

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