Cellular automaton is an area in mathematics and computer science that really started in the early 1970'es. It is a very specialized part in computer scince where you create a "world" of two dimensions, like a white board. It contains cells, very much like a chess board, just much bigger. In theory it can be of infinite size.
The most famous person in that area is John Conway who invented "The Game of Life", which takes place in that 2D-world. Rumours have it that Conway started out in his kitchen where he placed a lot of plates (cells) on the floor. A plate could be faced up (alive) or faced down (dead). Then he applied some simple rules to the game that he was about to start.
He ran through all plates and decided what should happen to them in this "generation" and then execute the decision. Then he started all over again and again and again and ..... Something very peculiar happend if he started out with some spcial configurations. They seemed to live on in other configurations.
He moved the game to a computer and could now easily follow the devellopment of the life he had created. People got crazy with this "Game of Life" and started to find strange configurations that could live on forever or could even create new configurations. It had become a new type of computer game, but there are no opponents. You can just lean back and watch how life evolves.
It has been very difficult to define life, both when it is created and when it deceases. It is up to you to decide if Conways life is life, - but please do not reject it at first thought. It can be part of the discussion about artificial life and maybe even natural life. Is a virus a living creature, is a bacteria. When is a person dead and when is an embryo a human being.
You will find a 2D universe below where you can play around with "life". Click on the white board to create
a cell. Create several and click on Run in order
to see it lives or dies. Click Stop to halt life and 1 in order to see just one generation.
Press Clean to clean the board to make it ready for new life.
You can control the speed of the generations by the glide bar. To the right is faster and left is slower.
You can select some pre-defined lifes and see what happens. Click on one of the lives and Get-a-life and then Run.