For those who just want to play and figure out what’s going on without being told, skip to the link at the end.

For those of you that don’t know what elementary cellular automata are, they are very simple programs, or games, or rules. Basically you take a very simple shape, a line, cut it up into segments, say each segment can either be “on” or “off” and define a rule to go from one state to the next that only involves a segment and its 2 neighbors. The rule is applied globally at once each “generation”. Typically the segmented line is shown horizontally, with one color for on segments, and another for off segments, and its evolution over time is shown vertically, with down being forward in time.

For those who want more information, I direct you to Steven Wolfram’s book “A New Kind of Science”, which is available online, here. Although I don’t actually know anyone else who’s read it, I think it’s easy to get through as long as you find it interesting. Don’t assume this isn’t your thing if you haven’t done math or computer science or whatever, give it a try first.

Anyway, these things can be very cool. In fact, one of them, called “rule 110”, can be manipulated and interpreted to act like any other elementary cellular automata, depending on the initial state. This is called universality. It’s been suggested that a bunch of elementary cellular automata are universal, but we only know how to do it with rule 110 and its equivalents. This is mostly what I’m interested in, but there are other things to learn.

So, I give you a simple HTML5 and JavaScript program that lets you play with elementary cellular automata. It’s by no means the best program for investigating elementary cellular automata, but it does work in your right in browser and in the source you can see the properties of every elementary cellular automata in tables. Maybe you’ll like what you taste. I’ll be updating it as I learn. See what you can learn here.

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