When Cellular Automata Come to Life

Cellular automata are probably the closest things to machine life that most people have gotten an opportunity to experiment with in recent years. John Conway invented a piece of software titled the Game of Life in 1970. He carefully set up the rules to create a balanced world. While this might sound like old news, it has allowed scientists to actually simulate certain real world systems.

Life is one of the most basic examples of emergent complexity. Very simple rules can create extremely complex patterns. In fact, the game might allow individuals to better understand how actual organic cells live or die.

The software raises an interesting ethical question.

People can have a hard time defining what life really is. With new technology, the definition of machine life could become extremely important. Computer programs like Life can only exist in two dimensions. However, a three dimensional simulation could prove very interesting. A giant two-dimensional simulation potentially has the capability to evolve into something that genuinely resembles real life.

Computers are currently only able to do exactly what they are told to do for the most part. Rules still have to be developed. However, the laws of physics defined the set of rules for our own universe have they not? One might wish to look at the rules of the Game of Life as scientific phenomena on a very small scale. More importantly, perhaps we might consider that life as we know it is not so very different from rules governing computer operations in the overall scheme of things.

Image Credit: Thunder-Wave


Arima V, Iurlo M, Zoli L, Kumar S, Piacenza M, Della Sala F, Matino F, Maruccio G, Rinaldi R, Paolucci F, Marcaccio M, Cozzi PG, & Bramanti AP (2012). Toward Quantum-dot Cellular Automata units: thiolated-carbazole linked bisferrocenes. Nanoscale, 4 (3), 813-23 PMID: 22159165

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Physical Cellular Automata – Time Lapse by Jan Vantomme


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Physical Cellular Automata | Flickr – Photo Sharing!


Cellular Automata images rendered with Processing. Dimensions are 50 x 40 pixels. Made into real objects by hand with tiny plastic pixels. Time lapse video of one of these pieces over here: vimeo.com/40016823.

Programming: A list of Patents Referring to Cellular Automata


PATENTS REFERRING TO CELLULAR AUTOMATA 1. 5070446, Dec. 3, 1991, Method of simulating a hexagonal array of computer processorsand/or memories, Salem, James B., Boston, Massachusetts 2. 5043988, Aug.

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