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Written by Rizki Noor Hidayat Wijayaź   

Conway*s Life (Game Of Life, GOL) is the most well known cellular automaton. It has been extensively explored, and a large number of extraordinary patterns have been found. Perhaps to call it a game is somewhat misleading. It*s not a game like Doom or other games you would play with a joystick. Life is more of a simulation where you can alter the parameters but you cannot actually alter the outcome directly, that is done by the conditions of the simulation.

The game is played on a 2-dimensional grid. Each cell can be either *on* or *off*. Each cell has eight neighbors, adjacent across the sides and corners of the square. The Life rule can be simply expressed (in terms of the way it affects a cell*s behavior from one generation to the next) as follows:

  • If a cell is off and has 3 living neighbors (out of 8), it will become alive in the next generation.
  • If a cell is on and has 2 or 3 living neighbors, it survives; otherwise, it dies in the next generation.

A commonly used shorthand for this is 23/3 (or S23/B3), which signifies that a living cell survives if it has two live neighbors, and is born if it has three live neighbors.

These specific rules were selected in 1970 by the mathematician J.H. Conway to guaranty that the cellular automaton is on the boundary between unbounded growth and decay into dullness. It was proven that its chaotic behavior is unpredictable and it could be used to build a universal Turing-machine and even a universal constructor. The contrast between the simplicity of this rule and the complexity of the behavior it produces is a constant source of wonder.

Note that each cell acts independently based on the old arrangement to produce the new. The number of neighbors is counted from the old arrangement only. Therefore, if a dead cell has 3 neighbors, the cell will be alive in the next generation, even if those neighbors die.

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