Conway’s Game of Life

To see what Conway’s Game of Life can do, draw something on the canvas and hit the Run button. You can read more about the Game of Life below.

The Game of Life was invented by mathematician John Conway in 1970 and introduced to the public by Martin Gardner in Scientific American the same year. It is an automated zero-player game that can be played on a checkerboard, graph paper, or a spreadsheet. (The javascript version above was graciously provided by Pedro Verruma under an MIT license.) Note that each square on any such grid is surrounded by eight neighboring squares. A cell can be filled in and therefore “live” or empty and “dead.” The game goes through many generations or turns, during which all of the following rules are followed:

  1. Every live cell with two or three live neighbors survives.
  2. Every live cell with four or more live neighbors dies from overpopulation.
  3. Every live cell with fewer than two live neighbors dies from isolation.
  4. Every empty cell with exactly three live neighbors is a birth cell and becomes live.

Everything in one generation happens simultaneously, so births and deaths do not affect their neighbors during the same turn in which they occur. Experimenters have discovered many different starting states with interesting effects. The Gosper Glider Gun grows indefinitely by launching gliders.

Gosper Glider Gun
Gosper Glider Gun by Kieff, CC BY-SA 3.0.

A breeder moves across the space, leaving a trail of glider guns.

Breeder Train
Breeder by George, CC BY-SA 3.0.

If you’d like to see how to code a basic version of the Game of Life yourself, check out this video:

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brain teasers, word games, paradoxes, situation puzzles, and optical illusions