Fourier Life Demonstration (click Run or scroll down for blog posts)


Cellular Automata System:   Generation: 0

Even generation rule: B3/S23  Odd generation rule: B2/S56

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mondrian-Like Rectangular Subdivision

[Update Jan. 2014: Select System C, Rule 4 at the top of the page to run the system discussed in this post.]

David Eppstein wrote a blog post about my Fourier Life page over at the 0xDE blog.  One of his favorites is the Qix! rule set which he describes as producing a Mondrian-like rectangular subdivision.  I had to Google Mondrian to understand he was referring to the art of Piet Mondrian, such as in the picture on the left.

In case some of you youngsters out there don't know what Qix is, it was an arcade game back in the golden age of arcades (you know, the glorious 1980's).  I personally didn't like the game much, but it was a cool concept that was simple to explain but very difficult to master.  You can play a flash version here if you're up for it (remember to hold down X or Z when you move with the cursor keys to draw the lines).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Getting the Word Out

[Update January 2014: I removed the link to my old website because now all the information and the demonstration of the self-replicating cellular automata are on this blog.]

Now that I've completed my Fourier Life website [now blog], I need to get the word out.  Here is a list of people and sites I've contacted:

What is Life?

"Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action."  Ayn Rand published those words in 1957 in her classic, Atlas Shrugged.  How is it that more than 50 years later we are still debating the definition of life?  Is it because Ayn Rand was an author and philosopher, not a biologist?  Is it because Rand defined life only as an intermediate step in making a bigger point about morality?  Here is the full quote from Atlas Shrugged:

There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of “Life” that makes the concept of “Value” possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.

Note that Rand's definition doesn't describe replication.  Self-replication is a necessary property of life for a species to persist through time, but it is not a fundamental requirement of life.  Let's look at the definition in more detail.

First off, life is a process.  It is an attribute of objects, such as a mouse before and after it gets caught in a mouse trap.  Second, it is a process of action.  Living things metabolize, move and are far from equilibrium.  All of these attributes are summed up with the term "action."  Third, the action is self-generated.  Living things require energy and use it to act, i.e. live.  Finally, the action is self-sustaining.  The actions performed by living things work to keep the organism far from equilibrium and to keep it alive.

By Rand's definition, we can classify the following as alive or dead:
  • bacteria = alive
  • mule = alive (even though it can't reproduce)
  • viruses = dead (they do not have self-generated action)
  • tornadoes = dead (they are self-sustaining but not self-generated)
  • Roomba robot = alive???
The Roomba robot sits in its charging base and, every day at a predefined time, goes out and cleans the floor.  When it's done or when its battery gets low, it seeks out its charging base to recharge its batteries.  Is this not a process of self-generated and self-sustaining action?

Ayn Rand believed definitions were contextual--they only need to distinguish between objects at the current state of knowledge.  Perhaps the definition needs to be updated to account for robots like the Roomba.  Or maybe we just need to consider our little housekeeping robot as a part of the family.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Note about Browsers

[Update January 2014: Fourier Life now lives on instead of and the cellular automata are now implemented with Javascript instead of Java applets. As a result, the demonstration now works on IE, Chrome, FireFox, Safari, Android tablets and iPad!]

So I've tested the web-site in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome.  The Java applets work in all of them (sometimes after upgrading Java and trusting the site), but in Chrome the applet area is bigger than it should be.  How is it we're in 2012 and we still have compatibility issues with browsers?  I guess with unfettered capitalism, you take the good with the bad!

I don't know if it works on Apple's Safari.  I hope so!

Fourier Life on

[Update January 2014: the link to my old website was removed because that website was replaced with this blog. Google's blogspot is nice because it doesn't have ads and I was able to implement the cellular automata self replicators in JavaScript at the top of the page.]

This blog was started to go along with the Fourier Life website [now blog] that I set up.  Click on the link to see what it's all about--it's easier to show than to tell. [Now you can just click the Run button at the top of the page!]

I set up this blog in case there's any interest in the site.  I figure I can answer questions here easier than on the website.  It will also be easier for people to comment here rather than set up some kind of comment section on the actual website.