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2011 February 16

Engineered Objects

Something amazing has happened. Two completely unrelated recent discoveries from 2010 have been elegantly unified into a single pattern.

Paul Rendell's c/12 stack constructor.

First: a summary. Last month, LifeNews published an article detailing Paul Rendell's stack constructor, a pattern capable of extending the tape of his Turing machine without limit, thereby endowing his UTM with computation universality. The original version of his stack constructor comprises two orthogonal c/2 rakes, which stretch out an expanding wave of gliders, coalescing to form the tape.

Despite working as planned, Paul was somewhat unsatisfied with his stack constructor. Its population soon explodes due to the waves of gliders, an artefact of using two orthogonal rakes to build a diagonal structure. The natural solution would be to use a diagonal puffer to extend the stack; this is precisely what he has accomplished.

The second version of his stack constructor uses c/12 rakes to provide the influx of gliders necessary for stack construction. However, there is a catch. The tape has a spatial period of 90, so the temporal period of the Cordership fleet must be twelve times that -- or 1080. Corderships, on the other hand, have a temporal period of 96n, so the smallest multiple of the desired period is 4320. This means that four rakes are required to emulate the rakes. This is accomplished in a somewhat similar way to how gliders are interleaved in pseudo-period guns, but with rakes instead.

Additionally, because his rakes use a kickback reaction, the size of the rakes are increased by another factor of two. Here is the RLE file for the completed rake. The resulting stack constructor is truly immense, similar in population count to the Caterpillar, and the corresponding RLE file is 21.8 megabytes in size!

You may be wondering where the second piece of 2010 technology comes into the equation. Recall that four rakes are interleaved for each glider in the stack constructor, which is rather sub-optimal. Clearly, then, there are two options: redesign the tape to have an offset of (say) 96 cells, instead of 90; or forget c/12 technology completely.

Adam P. Goucher suggested the latter, advocating the use of the emerging field of c/5 diagonal technology. He modified Matthias' c/5 rakes to work at p450 instead, resulting in an immense glide-reflective rake, not much smaller than the c/12 pseudo-rakes! However, after several successive optimisations, and a sudden insight from Matthias, he managed to produce a substantially smaller rake:

Adam P. Goucher's p450 rake, based on a design by Matthias Merzenich.

Paul modified the rake yet again, to form a variant capable of inserting gliders using the kickback reaction. Instead of the naïve approach of using two rakes, he used the same engine to produce both incident gliders for the kickback rake. This cuts down on the population count by a factor of two.

The stack constructor based on the c/5 rake is almost five times smaller by population count than its c/12 counterpart (RLE file). What follows is a diagram of the constructor, similar to the previous one, giving an idea of the dimensions of this beast:

Paul Rendell's c/5 stack constructor.