Monday, 27 April 2009

The Recursive Universe by William Poundstone

The Recursive Universe by William PoundstoneIn The Recursive Universe, William Poundstone uses Conway's Life as a vehicle to explore complexity theory and modern physics. Poundstone demonstrates how simple rules can produce complex results when applied recursively and suspects our own universe was created in a similar manner.

Conway's Game of Life was devised by John Conway in 1970. The Game of Life is played on a grid of square cells, each of which can be in one of two states, dead or alive. Three simple rules are applied repeatedly, first to the initial pattern, then to each new pattern in turn:
  • a live cell with less than 2 neighbours dies
  • a live cell with more than 3 neighbours dies
  • a dead cell with 3 neighbours becomes a live cell
Each cell has eight neighbours, 2 horizontally, 2 vertically and 4 diagonally. Conway's Game of Life is also know as 23/3 Life. This indicate a live cell survives if it has 2 or 3 neighbours and a dead cell becomes live if it has 3 neighbours.

The Recursive Universe briefly explores some variations of Life, for example 34/34 Life. I'm currently experimenting with some other variations and will let you know the results shortly.