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No. 652: Conway's Game of Death

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Conway's Game of Death

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Strip by: Henning Makholm

{A pixellated portrait of Jon, which is destroyed by an incoming glider, by the rules of Conway's Game of Life.}

The author writes:

This little doodle recreates the events of strip #305 through the medium of interpretive d—, um, I mean, cellular automata.

It is perhaps unremarkable that the Game of Life differs from its real-world namesake, but still ... one of the most striking features of biological life is its resilience and ability to self-heal after damage. Patterns in Conway's game can do amazing things when run in a sterile environment, but they are incredibly unstable. If you so much as look at them funnily they'll erupt into violent all-dissolving chaos that has nothing at all to do with their original purpose.

The above likeness of Jon happens to erupt in a relatively restrained manner. I had to sift through several thousand randomly generated renderings in order to find one that would do that, rather than, say, keep bubbling for thousands of generations and spew gliders in all directions (which would make the file size somewhat excessive).

If you want to step through the reaction in a Life program of your choice, here is the starting constellation in PNG and RLE formats.

Original strip (though several steps removed) from 2005-01-15.