Science: Flop of the Century?

  • Share
  • Read Later

(3 of 3)

Countless computers from Cambridge to M.I.T. to Caltech have been programmed to play Life, sometimes to the chagrin of those in charge of the costly machines. Martin Gardner tells of one computer specialist who has a special panic button under his desk: whenever a supervisor comes into the room, the specialist can wipe the display screen clean; later, after the supervisor has left, the computer can reach into its memory and pick up the game exactly where it left off. Nor are Americans or Britons the only ones addicted. Gardner has gotten inquiries about Life from as far off as Moscow, New Delhi and Tokyo.

Primordial Broth. Enthusiasm is so high that "lifenatics" have taken to exchanging their discoveries in a quarterly newsletter, "Lifeline," published by Life Buff Robert T. Wainwright, a computer specialist in Wilton, Conn. Sample report: "I wanted to find a pattern that would blow up, a bomb that creates a spectacular explosion when the lit fuse burns down." Wainwright himself works hard in his spare time on extending the limits of Life. The paper he presented at this week's 1974 Winter Simulation Conference discussed how the game can imitate creation. Acting like molecules in the primordial broth out of which real life may have originated on the young Earth, some Life forms actually yield self-replicating patterns that continue to reproduce as long as there is space for them to grow.

*In actual play, this variation would also result in the creation of two new counters (shown in different colors) under the simultaneous operation of the Law of Birth.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. Next Page