Renowned mathematician and "Game of Life" inventor, John Conway, died this week of COVID-19

Renowned mathematician and beloved Princeton University professor, John Horton Conway, died this week (April 11) of COVID-19. He was 82. Conway is best known as the inventor of the hugely influential and inspirational artificial life program, The Game of Life.

From the Princeton obit:

“John Conway was an amazing mathematician, game wizard, polymath and storyteller who left an indelible mark on everyone he encountered — colleagues, students and beyond — inspiring the popular imagination just as he unraveled some of the deepest mathematical mysteries,” said Igor Rodnianski, professor of mathematics and chair of the Department of Mathematics. “His childlike curiosity was perfectly complemented by his scientific originality and the depth of his thinking. It is a great loss for us and for the entire mathematical world.”

Over his long career, Conway made significant contributions to mathematics in the fields of group theory, number theory, algebra, geometric topology, theoretical physics, combinatorial game theory and geometry.

The jacket to Siobhan Roberts' biography of Conway describes him as:

"Archimedes, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, and Richard Feynman all rolled into one -- a singular mathematician, with a rock star's charisma, a sly sense of humor, a polymath's promiscuous curiosity, and a burning desire to explain everything about the world to everyone in it."

It is so sad to have lost him and doubly sad how little I've seen about his passing. I guess that's one of the many tragic dimensions of dying in the grim sweep of a pandemic.

Image: Thane Plambeck/Wikipedia Read the rest

Game of Life in 3D

Conway's Game of Life—the OG cellular automaton toy—is put in three dimensions by Samuel Levy. You can spin the playfield as it mutates, too! It beat the hell out of my computer on the higher settings, though.

Cells (in this case, cubes) with only 1 or less neighbours die, as if by lonliness.

If 5 cells surround an empty cell, they breed and fill it.

If a cell has 8 or more neighbours, it dies from overcrowding.

Strictly speaking, that means it's not the Game of Life but a more elaborate automaton. The results are rather obscure, visually, to me, in this particular setup. I hope this gets expanded to allow for more experimenting with rules. Read the rest

Your name in the Game of Life

A great one-shot site: punch your name in and watch it explode into a mass of wiggling cellular automata. Read the rest