The game was simple: Place any configuration of cells on a grid, then watch what transpires according to three rules that dictate how the system plays out.
Birth rule: An empty, or “dead,” cell with precisely three “live” neighbors (full cells) becomes live.
Death rule: A live cell with zero or one neighbors dies of isolation; a live cell with four or more neighbors dies of overcrowding.
Survival rule: A live cell with two or three neighbors remains alive.
With each iteration, some cells live, some die and “Life-forms” evolve, one generation to the next.
Among the first creatures to emerge was the glider — a five-celled organism that moved across the grid with a diagonal wiggle and proved handy for transmitting information. It was discovered by a member of Dr. Conway’s research team, Richard Guy, in Cambridge, England. The glider gun, producing a steady stream of gliders, was discovered soon after by Bill Gosper, then at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In 2018, there was a much-celebrated discovery of a special kind of spaceship, the first elementary knightship, named Sir Robin. Made of hundreds of cells, it moves two cells forward and one sideways every six generations. It was discovered by Adam P. Goucher, a British algorithmist, building on an earlier partial find…