Play John Conway’s Game of Life


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.


:pre-pulsar A common predecessor of the pulsar, such as that shown below. This duplicates itself in 15 generations. (It fails, however, to be a true replicator because of the way the two copies then interact.)

Game of Life pattern ’pre-pulsar’

A pair of tubs can be placed to eat half the pre-pulsar as it replicates; this gives the p30 oscillator Eureka where the pre-pulsar's replication becomes a movement back and forth. See twirling T-tetsons II for a variation on this idea. By other means the replication of the pre-pulsar can be made to occur in just 14 generations as half of it is eaten; this allows the construction of p28 and p29 oscillators. The pre-pulsar was also a vital component of the first known p26 and p47 oscillators.

See also PPS.

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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