A New Spaceship Speed In Life
Written by Mike James   
Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Life research community has been surprised this month to discover that there is a 28-cell arrangment that moves across the board at a new speed. This is surprising because you would have expected to find this a long while ago. 



The whole story is detailed on Nigin's Blog and I defer to his expertise on the matter, I'm just going to tell you the parts that are interesting to the non-expert and give you a view into this fascinating subject.

Elementary spaceships in Life are arrangements of cells that move in a given direction at a given speed and they can't be broken down into identifiable parts that do other jobs. Elementary spaceships were discovered quite early on and they were one of the reasons that people found the game of Life so interesting. They are also important components of other construction in Life and so there are programs that search for them. 

The list of known ships has examples for most speeds, or they have been shown to be impossible. Given that lots of people have been searching imagine the surprise when the forum acquired a new member going by the name zdr. Usually beginners tend to find "new" constructions that are already known or of little practical interest.  

In this case zdr asked the innocent question

is this c/10 spaceship known?

by zdr » March 5th, 2016, 5:54 am

there may be bugs in gfind




The answer was that there was no record of this configuration and at only 28 cells you might have expected it to have been discovered before. As Nigin puts it:

It appears that low-hanging fruit have been harvested clean during the 46 years of Life research… or, more precisely, it appeared so before zdr’s post.

The reason it had been missed is that it has a large period and the time to search for a spaceship increases with period. However, this arrangement is small enough to find in under 20 seconds had anyone searched for it. This is not only a small spaceship, it also moves at a speed that hasn't been found before. It moves forward at c/10, that is one cell every ten ticks. 

Since the discovery the Life community has been hard at work. The new configuration is called Copperhead and a glider synthesis and a gun among other things have already been designed. A glider synthesis creates a Copperhead by crashing gliders into each other and a gun fires a Copperhead.

Perhaps the real moral of the story is that it's not all over for Life. You can stil be a relative beginner and discover something amazing. 

More Information

Nigin's Blog 

is this c/10 spaceship known?

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 23 March 2016 )