John Conway, inventor of the Game of Life, has died of COVID-19

Bill Gosper
Bill Gosper

The famous mathematician John Conway has succumbed to COVID-19. He was 82. 

Conway spent his early years in Cambridge but later moved on to Princeton back in the 1980s. In the field of Mathematics, he had earned quite a name. He made some marvelous contributions in different areas of mathematics. However, he is best known for the creation: Game of Life (not the board game).

The Game of Life is a cellular automaton that has simple rules. Using these simple rules can often give rise to the complex behavior of the game elements. In a 1970 Scientific American article, this game was introduced and it became quite a popular game after that.

 Bill Gosper
Bill Gosper

The game is simple. You can play it on square cells on a 2-dimensional plane. The square can be white (dead) or black (alive). By using simple deterministic rules that can dictate the board state from one step to the next, you progress in the game. If a live square has 2-3 live neighbors, including the diagonals, it will stay alive. If a dead square has 3 live neighbors, it becomes alive again. If not, the cell remains white or dead. 

Even before computers, back in the 1960s, Conway developed the rules of this game.

Bill Gosper, another mathematician, made a discovery of the glider gun, which follows a Game of Life structure. It was imported to a Go board which started showing complex behaviors when used alongside the rules of Conway’s Game of Life.


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