Play John Conway’s Game of Life

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Life Lexicon

(CC BY-SA 3.0)

This Life lexicon is compiled by Stephen A. Silver from various sources and may be copied, modified and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported licence. See the original credit page for all credits and the original download location. The styling has been adjusted to fit this website.


:B-heptomino (stabilizes at time 148) This is a very common methuselah that evolves into three blocks, two gliders and a ship after 148 generations. Compare with Herschel, which appears at generation 20 of the B-heptomino's evolution. B-heptominoes acquired particular importance in 1996 due to Dave Buckingham's work on B tracks. See in particular My Experience with B-heptominos in Oscillators.

Game of Life pattern ’B-heptomino’

This pattern often arises with the cell at top left shifted one space to the left, producing a seven-bit polyplet that shares the same eight-bit descendant but is not technically a heptomino at all. This alternate form is shown as the input for elementary converter patterns such as BFx59H and BRx46B. This is standard practice for elementary conduits, since many of these conduits do in fact produce this alternate form as output.

The B-heptomino is considered a failed puffer or failed spaceship, since on its own it travels at c/2 for only a short time before being affected by its own trailing debris. However, it can be stabilized into a c/2 puffer or into a clean c/2 rake or spaceship. See, e.g., ecologist.

John Conway’s Game of Life

The Game of Life is not your typical computer game. It is a cellular automaton, and was invented by Cambridge mathematician John Conway.

This game became widely known when it was mentioned in an article published by Scientific American in 1970. It consists of a collection of cells which, based on a few mathematical rules, can live, die or multiply. Depending on the initial conditions, the cells form various patterns throughout the course of the game.


For a space that is populated:

Each cell with one or no neighbors dies, as if by solitude.

Each cell with four or more neighbors dies, as if by overpopulation.

Each cell with two or three neighbors survives.

For a space that is empty or unpopulated

Each cell with three neighbors becomes populated.

The Controls

Choose a pattern from the lexicon or make one yourself by clicking on the cells. The 'Start' button advances the game by several generations (each new generation corresponding to one iteration of the rules).

More information

In the first video, from Stephen Hawkings’ documentary The Meaning of Life, the rules are explained, in the second, John Conway himself talks about the Game of Life.

Stephen Hawkings The Meaning of Life (John Conway's Game of Life segment) Inventing Game of Life (John Conway) - Numberphile

The Guardian published a nice article about John Conway.

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