John Conway’s Game of Life

Well, it’s very old and actually not a game in the common sense of the term. And it’s slow and there is no killing or bombs going off. No flashy graphics or sounds.  Still interested?  Here’s a LINK.

The rules to the game are quite simple, but the computer enforces them once you click GO. The object is to keep your colony ‘alive’ as long as possible.

Here’s a suggestion.  Begin with the upper case letters of the alphabet. When you click on the blue PLAY LIFE tab, a graph pops up. First, set the ZOOM level to 2.  Next, you may want to enlarge the graph by clicking and dragging the edges to fill your monitor screen.

Try an easy letter first like X. Go to the top right and click and hold the mouse and draw it down to the lower left.  Complete the other half of the X.  Then click “go” at the top of the graph.  How long of a life does your X have?  Note the counter at the top right of the graph.  Your colony is “dead” when there are no new life forms created or they just spin.

Which upper case letter do you imagine has the longest life?  Take a guess and try it.  One of mine lasted 2000 cycles.

How about the 3 initials of your name?  How much “life” do yo have?

What about presidential initials?  Does LBJ have a longer ‘life’ than JFK?  Which U.S. President’s initials has the greatest longevity?

Can you write in cursive?  How does that alter you created ‘life?’


Here is Glider, or the pioneer adventurer who ‘visits’ other colonies and brings them ‘wisdom’ and seeds of new life.


6 thoughts on “John Conway’s Game of Life

  1. Stephen Hawking referenced Conway’s game in his new book, “The Grand Design,” as a ‘creation/evolution scenario.’ Heavy stuff, but then, Hawking is literally in another universe when it comes to thought processes.

    I am becoming ‘hooked’ on this Creation theme and my role as ‘God.’ I decided to use 3 shapes- a circle, square and a plus sign- and put each inside of the other as my initial Adam and Eve. Wow! Did they procreate!! They went on for 4500 ‘generations’ before they finally became extinct. Early on, it seemed as if they ‘died out’ but a miracle occurred off-screen and some of my beloved children were resurrected and the procreation went on!

    I’m enjoying the God-design role. You may honor me with appropriate deity-like homage, but if you don’t then…

    UPDATE: I found that I needed to play Noah on my last go with the game. All of my colonies spread apart and died, so I had to STOP the game and infuse an ark [drew one around a dead colony] then hit GO and Noah and his family and pets were ‘saved’ for quite a while.

    And God said…

  2. Yes, there are so many games…The game of politics is very interesting. I’m not good at drawing analogies among various games and politics, but there seems to be common elements..Players, strategies, contests trying out the agreed to strategy, the play of the game, and winning and losing.

    We have posted and commented on the game of politics for some time now. And, like any game, we become bored from time to time and look for something else to perk up our interest. It has been discussions about climate, science, education, religion, and even the universe that has provided most of the variances with the game of politics. However, inevitably the discussion usually focuses on politics.

    It seems to me that to ignore politics is to put what we believe in joepardy. What happens in politics determines our lives and the matters
    that interest us. If we are not players, then we will lose. We must continue to play or the results can be catastrophic. I’m reminded of that movie in the 70s or 80s where the giant pentagon computer started a game of precipatating a nuclear war, and the only one who could possibly play the game and win was the inventor of the computer, but he had become a recluse because of his opposition to the military. He had dropped from sight, but a kid comes to the rescue, finds him, and gets him to “play the game” with his invention.

    Therefore, it seems to me that the game of politics is changing again(or is it?), and this is not only seen in the philosophy(ideology) of the two major political parties, but in the Republican Party as well. The old Republican Party philosopy of moderate conservativism dominate since 1948 seems to be gone or at the least on the wane. Contemporay Republican philosophy(ideology) is reactionary and fundamentalist, with a bent of zealous fervor that borders on fanaticism.

    The Repubican Party has become a messianic movement. Messianic in the sense that they know right and no one else does. Another component of the takeover is that it can be accomplished piecemal, one candidate at a time, one election at a time. They don’t believe that it has to be accomplished immediately as in one election. It’s the we would rather lose than keep the same senator or representative mentality.

    They are focused on the “promised land” of small government, zero taxes, and social and religious fundamentalism. Their cause is never defeated, they believe they will win the next election; it’s political, social and religious ideology. Their goal is to take over the political party, which may already have been accomplished(might look at that occurring from 1972-2001) and then the governments at all three levels (this can be seen in UT with the loss of a safe moderate Republican senator defeated by a rightist in the primary and Rubio in FL, plus a number of House representatives, and the flip of many state legislatures. They will now concentrate on Party purity for the House, Senate, and Presidential elections of 2012. A tea party endorsed Republican Presidential nominee seems certain.

    2010 may have been the year that the voters of our so called “affirmation of democracy” country want to go in a different direction. Indeed, what we read and hear from Republican Party spokespeople is that 2010 represents
    a mandate for change, a return to constitutional government, and to have the Republican Party re-learn past Republican conservatism of Harding, Cooledge, Hoover, Landon, Wilkie, Robert Taft, Goldwater, and Reagan(well at least his one phrase of “Government is the problem”.It’s a rejection of Lincoln, TR, William Taft, Dewey, Ike, Nixon, and Bush I moderate conservatism.

    It seems to me that the challenge in the next two years will be not whether 2010 was a mandate year, but whether American will view the election as working to improve their lives, and if it does, 2012 will be the mandate as these reactionary Republicans win the House, Senate and Presidency. This is the game. The question is what is the stragegy of the Democrats to prevent this takeover. The game is political reactionary ideology versus political realism. One side is already running with the ball and moving down the field. Where is that realist leader for the opposition?
    The game must commense now, or it will be too late to counter the momentum…..

  3. Good thoughts, my friend. As you have noticed, my desire to re-enter the political fray has diminished of late. Perhaps like the Autumn season, one needs to loose one’s leaves and reflect on all that has been accomplished during the warm weather time of this year.

    My wife stated, as we were driving through a nicely wooded landscape, that she finds the onset of winter to be cathartic because it forces one to draw inward and prepare for the onset of a harsh set of circumstances- at least here up north.

    I wonder if that element is missing for those who live in the South- where one really doesn’t need to think about ‘survival’ because winter is so mild and perhaps just viewed as a slight inconvenience.

    I suspect that southern politicians lack that reflective time, the time that we in the north find so healing. They just move along on a straight-line course whereas the northerner understands much more clearly the cyclical nature of life and the need to be in synch with this cycle.

    That is where you and differ in the necessity to move forward into more and more political discourse. I choose to sit for a while and ponder.

  4. From Reagan to Obama U.S. Presidents have negotiated SALT Arms Treaties, and all have been easily approved by the U.S. Senate, until now.
    Some Senate Republicans, notably Sen. Kyle, are threatening to kill the
    newest negotiated treaty. The reason being the Republican refusal to think of the the interests of the nation…So much for “Country First”! The Republicans are on record of doing anything they can to defeat President Obama. At the expense of the country Republicans are threatening to defeat the treaty just to deprive this President of an accomplishment in foreign affairs.

    This ties into my comment above concerning the reactionary Republican Party. The treaty needs to be approved on its merits, not that of the President’s. The treaty is important not only for again cutting nukes , but also because of its geo-political significance. Russia is being very helpful in Iraq and Afghanistan(most all of our war making material comes into Afghanastan through Russia), and joining in the UN to impose stiffer sanctions on Iran’s nuclear designs. Moreover, the treaty is important for internal Russian politics as President Mendeev supports the treaty and his position will be immensely improved, vis a vis Putin. In addition, there are no American inspectors on the ground, and apparently no Russian ones either, to know what is happening with their abandoned silos still harboring nukes aimed at the United States and allied cities. Russian site security is seriously lacking making it open territory for terrorists to abscond with nuclear material.

    This is a win-win for the United States. For these reactionary Republicans
    to play another spiteful card again demonstrates the Party’s extreme ideology of gaining power by any means possible. One of the few remaining moderate Republican Senators, Lugar IN, has publically scolded Sen. Kyle and others in the Party for their negative stand. We are witnessing Republicans threatening war with Iran(remember McCain’s “bomb, bomb Iran) over the beginning of a nuclear program, while Russia has thousands of “loose” warheads to launch or for terrorists to pick off. Incredulous! The next few days will determine if this Republican “brinkmanship” wins, or if their negative mentality can be broken. Will this and future Republican ideological stands lead the Republicans to electoral disaster in 2012?

  5. Will this and future Republican ideological stands lead the Republicans to electoral disaster in 2012?

    Let’s examine this from an historic point of view. I’m imagining that you assume that the statement has validity. I, on the other hand do not for the simple reason that the electorate is still quite dumbed-down and thoroughly propagandized.

    Back in the days of a more well-read, less lazy and more well-informed electorate, your statement would be probable. But I’m seeing a sleeping, lazy giant unwilling to take that extra step, that extra effort to learn about the facts. They’d rather have someone tell them the ‘facts’ and then go on with their mundane, purposeless lives. The right-wing shysters understand this and are quite happy that Glenn Beck and Limbaugh carry their dirty water and pour it over the heads of the brain-dead listeners 24/7.

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