Life according to Conway

A Javascript interpretation

Please stand by.

20x20 matters
of alivelife and deaddeath.


The Game of Life is a cellular automaton and so is perhaps not as interactive as the word "game" suggests. The idea was first dicussed in 1970 by Dr. John Conway, professor of Finite Mathematics at Princeton University.

The rules

The idea is simple: each cell on a grid is either dead dead or alive alive. In each round or generation the number of live cells is counted among the eight cells that surround each cell, with this consequence:

  • if there are two neighbours alive, a cell will remain unchanged: a living cell will live the next round, a dead cell will remain dead;
  • if there are three living neighbours, a dead cell will even be reborn;
  • with less than two or more than three live neighbours, a cell dies.

Variations exist, but all share the notion that overpopulation and loneliness are equally killing. There has to be a balance, and that is where you come in.

Your options

Your part of the story is in fact limited to choosing the pattern of living fields to start out with. You make a red field green by clicking it or holding the Control key (on the keyboard, not the mouse) while hovering the mouse over it. When you set the world in motion with ‘Start’ the generations enfold like a natural formula with countless possible outcomes.

A list of named constellations is available. If your clicks do not intervene, these patterns develop in a straight line, or diagonal, or in situ, and always return to their starting position. You may wish to click ‘Clear’ for an end to life as it is known. ‘Save’ and edit the current pattern in a popup textfield.


This straightforward set of rules allows for a universe filled with oscillators, gliders, flip-flops, phoenixes, pulsators, sparkers, spaceships and metheuselahs. The mechanisms are studied meticulously by mathematicians and biologists alike as they may help us understand something about the secrets governing real life. The criminal authors of computer virusses as well as security experts have shown special interest.

For more information, see for example mathworld.wolfram.com, math.com or lifepatterns.net.

Pop. 0
Gen. 0
Start Step Stop Save Help