Conway’s Game of Life is the world’s most popular 2-dimensional cellular automaton. Programmers often implement it when learning a new programming language. It’s a nice little programming exercise and more challenging than a “hello, world”. There was a time when we ourselves implemented it in a lot of different ways during Code Retreat sessions.
The charm of Conway’s Game of Life is that from a small set of simple rules many interesting patterns can emerge: oscillators, gliders, spaceships, etc. On video platforms like YouTube you can find many videos of Conway’s Game of Life in action. I want to share with you some of my favorites that I personally found impressive:
Life in Life – The Game of Life playing itself.
Turing Machine in Game of Life – The Game of Life has the power of a universal Turing machine, and here’s an implementation of a Turing Machine in Game of Life itself.
Game of Life in APL – This video is impressive in a different way: it demonstrates the expressiveness (and eccentricity) of an elder programming language named APL originating in the 1960s. APL is an array programming language and can be seen as a precursor to MATLAB or Mathematica. It’s based on a mathematical notation invented by (Turing Award winner) Kenneth E. Iverson. The implementation is basically a one-liner.
Smooth Life – A variation of Game of Life using floating point values instead of integers.
Game of Life producing a scrolling marquee of aliens.
And here you can watch John Conway himself, a very humble person, explain the rules of Game of Life with a handful of almonds.