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.


:eater2 (p1) This eater was found by Dave Buckingham in the 1970s. Mostly it works like the ordinary eater1 but with two slight differences that make it useful despite its size: it takes longer to recover from each bite, and it can eat objects appearing at two different positions.

Game of Life pattern ’eater2_(1)’

The first property means that, among other things, it can eat a glider in a position that would destroy an eater1. This novel glider-eating action is occasionally of use in itself, and combined with the symmetry means that an eater2 can eat gliders travelling along four adjacent glider lanes, as shown below.

The following eater2 variant (Stephen Silver, May 1998) can be useful for obtaining smaller bounding boxes. A more compact variant with the same purpose can be seen under gliderless.

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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