KGameOfLife 


The Game of LifeRulesConways genetic laws are delightfully simple. First note that each cell of the checkerboard (assumed to be an infinite plane) has eight neighboring cells, four adjacent orthogonally, four adjacent diagonally. The rules are:
It is important to understand that all births and deaths occur simultaneously. Together they constitute a single generation or a "move" in the complete "life history" of the initial configuration. Conway recommends the following procedure for making the moves:
You will now have the first generation in the life history of your initial pattern. The same procedure is repeated to produce subsequent generations. It should be clear why counters of two colors are needed. Because births and deaths occur simultaneously, newborn counters play no role in causing other deaths and births. It is essential, therefore, to be able to distinguish them from live counters of the previous generation while you check the pattern to make sure no errors have been made. Mistakes are very easy to make, particularly when first playing the game. After playing it for a while you will gradually make fewer mistakes, but even experienced players must exercise great care in checking every new generation before removing the dead counters and replacing newborn white counters with black. You will find the population constantly undergoing unusual, sometimes beautiful and always unexpected change. In a few cases the society eventually dies out (all counters vanishing), although this may not happen until after a great many generations. Most starting patterns either reach stable figuresConway calls them "still lifes"that cannot change or patterns that oscillate forever. Patterns with no initial symmetry tend to become symmetrical. Once this happens the symmetry cannot be lost, although it may increase in richness. Conway conjectures that no pattern can grow without limit. Put another way, any configuration with a finite number of counters cannot grow beyond a finite upper limit to the number of counters on the field. This is probably the deepest and most difficult question posed by the game. Conway has offered a prize of $50 to the first person who can prove or disprove the conjecture before the end of the year. One way to disprove it would be to discover patterns that keep adding counters to the field: a "gun" ( a configuration that repeatedly shoots out moving objects such as the "glider," to be explained below) or a "puffer train" (a configuration that moves but leaves behind a trail of "smoke"). 


Last modified November 22 2002 16:34:11.
