Dynamics of live cells in Conway’s game of Life in the absence of basic physical force laws.
Department of Physics, Vivekananda College, Thakurpukur, Kolkata – 700063, India
Dynamical properties of basic physics such as rotation and translation can be imitated using the rules
followed by the Conway’s Game of life. This thinking will open up the possibility of tackling harder
problems of transport and relaxation in complex systems and nanostructures, where the basic
interaction could not be exactly defined due to the complexity of the system.
PACS 02.50.Le – Decision theory and game theory
PACS 89.75.-k – Complex systems
*Corresponding author, firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been a recent surge in interest from all quarters of scientists, which include physicists,
economists, people of artificial intelligence [1 - 3] around the world to a particular mathematical
concept proposed by a mathematician John Horton Conway – called the game of life (CGOL) [4, 5],
which, seems quite natural in the era of the rise of virtual digital world  of games and social
networking. This game of Life actually consist of an infinite two dimensional grid of square cells, each of
which can be in binary states – alive (1 -state) or dead (0-state). As each cell can have eight nearest
neighbor, it can interact with them only obeying the following simple rules:
1) Each live cell with two or three live neighbor cells survives for the next generation (instant of
time/click of clock).
2) Each live cell with four live neighbor cells dies of overpopulation, while each live cell with less
than two live neighbor cells dies of isolation for the next generation (instant of time/click of
3) Each dead cell with exactly three (no more no less) live neighbor cells gives birth to a live cell for
the next generation (instant of time/click of clock).
Since its inception it has attracted a lot of attention in various fields like Cellular automaton ,
complex philosophical constructs such as consciousness and free will [8, 9, 10] in spite of being
completely deterministic in nature. This deterministic nature had compelled many to compare it with
the physical laws governing our universe .
RESULT AND DISCUSSION
In the present work, it is asserted that we can explain the physical world even without the
knowledge of the basic force of interaction. To achieve this, the Conway’s Game of Life is compared with
the very basic concepts of Physics such as dynamics. The motto is - If the basic dynamical properties
such as rotation and translation can be imitated without the knowledge of the basic force of interaction
(CGOL does not give the force of interaction but states few rules), then many complex phenomena such
as transport properties, which include conductivity and relaxation in complex systems [12, 13, 14] and
nanostructures [15, 16] can also be predicted to determine the design of future devices.
Depending upon the initial condition, many different types of patterns exist for the Game of
Life, which can be broadly classified as still life, oscillators and spaceships. With an objective to fulfill our
present purpose, an oscillator of period 2, which is called a Blinker is considered in the figure 1. The live
cells (1 – state) are shown in green, while the dead (0 – state) ones are shown in black. Let us assume
that three live cells are placed horizontally initially ( time = 0). Now the central live cell survives as it has
two live neighbors, while the end ones die at time =1. But the dead cells above and below the central
one experience a birth obeying the rules of CGOL. The row turn to a column and this goes on repeatedly
for the future time sequences. In the language of physics, we generated rotation without the knowledge
Let us consider another pattern from the class spaceship, which is termed as a glider, shown in
the figure 2. We can observe that, the pattern transforms in various ways for different times. For
example from time =1 to time 2, the pattern suffers a clockwise rotation of 900
followed by a reflection
about the vertical axis. Similarly the transformation from time = 1 to time =3 can be considered as a
counter clockwise rotation of 900
followed by a reflection about the horizontal axis. All these
transformations can form a group, which can lead to the emergence of certain kind of symmetry .
Again speaking in terms of the language of physics, we generated translation from time = 1 to time = 5.
This translation is the resultant of one cell horizontal and one cell vertical translation. For a long
duration of time they appear to crawl along the diagonal squares.
In conclusion we note that the basic two types of motion in dynamics i. e. translation and
rotation can be imitated using the Conway’s Game of Life without using the basic physical laws such as
Newton’s law. This approach will open up new way of analyzing different complex physical situations
even without the knowledge of exact physical laws of interaction (as the exact physical relationship are
not always available due to the complexity of the system).
Figure 1: Blinkers: Evolution of live cells with time generating rotation.
Figure 2: Gliders: Evolution of live cells generating Translation.
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