Conway's Game

Nervous Squirrel Conway’s Game: Life is an algorithm


From the fevered mind of Nervous Squirrel comes a Eurorack interpretation of John Conway’s Game of Life. Conway was a Cambridge mathematician who created a game based on cellular automaton (the status of cells arranged in a grid). The idea was that with a few mathematical rules, you can dictate whether each cell lives, dies or multiplies. You start with a group or pattern of cells, set it going and see how it evolves.

Game of Life

The rules are simple and rooted in concepts of community. Any live cell with no or just one neighbour dies through loneliness. Any live cell with two or three neighbours lives on to the next step, but if it has more than three neighbours, it dies through overpopulation. And finally, any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell through polyamorous activity.

You can play with the concept on this webpage. It’s a totally fascinating way of generating and evolving patterns.

Conway's Game
Conway’s Game

Anyway, back to Nervous Squirrel. Dave Cranmer has built a version of Conway’s Game of Life into a 8 x 8 grid matrix housed in a Eurorack module. Each live cell generated by the game is shown on the display and corresponds to an active trigger or gate at the appropriate patch socket. From a pseudo-random start, the simulation will run at the speed of 10Hz or to an external clock. It will keep on going until everything dies or it gets stuck in a loop. Then you can reset and start again.

The question is, how would you use these 64-patch sockets in your modular? What could you connect them to? I don’t mean that in a “what possible use it this?” kind of way, but rather I am perplexed and intrigued. You can also use it as a MIDI-to-Trigger converter, so that’s useful.

He made a 5U one years ago, and I’ve dug up a video of it in action. Fascinating.