My first real Game of Life research project was to try and follow to completion all the collisions
of a single Glider with an object. The tools available to me were a program written in Fortran
and summertine access the Notre Dame University Computer Center gave to local high school students
on their IBM 370. Input was through keypunched cards, and output was on paper, 66 lines of 132
characters per page. It was slow, but fun, and the best part was that, unlike my hand paper efforts,
I could trust the outcome. It was 1973.
Over the years I wrote Game of Life programs for all the computers I had access to (PDP-10s,
PDP-11s, Intel 8080s, Apple Macintosh among others), and as the computers got better, the easier
it got to trace the histories of these collisions. But because I had to watch and monitor the
program and sometimes manually intervene (like to recenter a pattern approaching the edge, or
to note escaping gliders), it was slow going. By the time I was working through the 11 bit objects
I took a pause, and never found my way back.
But the Life programs improved over the years. I added automatic census enumeration, automatic
Glider detection, an array space limited by the computer's word and memory size, and even scripting.
A couple of years ago I realized I had all the tools needed to go back to the collisions, and this
time do it quickly and easily.
A few days ago I finished with all the Stable and Period 2 Objects of 15 or fewer bits. Here
are a few of the more interesting results: A list of non-trivial (defined below) objects appearing
in all censuses, and a list of collisions that could be used in more complicated Glider
Non-trivial objects and collsions
What constitutes a "non-trivial" object? At right is a list of the 17 most common
objects that occur in the census of randomly generated bit arrays. (A full list of the objects I
found can be found my Life
website.) These, in most circumstances, occur so frequently that if there's anything interesting
about the patterns they are in, it's lost in the noise. (As the full list shows, the Fishhook Eater
actually occurs more often than the Long Barge, but because it's the smallest asymmetric object, I
didn't want to exclude it.)
Also excluded are collisions that result in a Boat being placed immediately next to the hook of a
Fishhook eater, as well as the hook acting as a Glider eater. These are so common and obvious that
there's no need to have them cluttering up the results.
Finally, I also leave out collisions which are included in the next category, Single Glider
Constructions. In general, any collision which resulted in single object in 15 or fewer generations
ended up in that category, because it is more interesting and potentially useful as
While there are a number of Pentadecathlons [12P15.1] appearing, all of them
come from the same basic reaction, that of a House (a Pi Heptomino successor) with a block which stabilizes 2576
generations later. Also shown here is the collision with the smallest object, a Mango
[8.8], that results in this.
The age record is held by this collision of a Glider with a 14-bit stable object
[14.314], which takes 15370 generations to achieve
For the target objects by bit size, here are the various objects which appear among various methuselahs:
First 300 objects
Single glider constructions
Here are lists of the collisions that might be of some interest or use in Glider constructions.
Many leave behind other debris that would need to be cleaned up with additional Gliders, not
shown here. In a few cases, extra Gliders are shown when it was discovered (usually by
accident) that other interesting objects could be constructed.
These tables are not complete, in that as the results of collisions with larger objects are
examined, I sometimes find cases where a smaller object will produce a simple object. Some
collisions affect only a portion of the target object, and so the same general principle
can be applied to a multitude of objects. Usually, only the simplest example is shown, to keep
the files sizes manageable, but occasionally a larger example will slip into the lists.
First 300 objects only
First 15 objects only
I'm going to continue with this for as long as I can. Already have done several hundred 16 bit
stable objects, and will start on the Period 2 Oscillators, too. As shown above, there are
certainly more interesting collisions lurking among them. If anyone is interested in other
details of these collsions, please contact me directly.