Approaching the Edge of Chaos: A Study of the Complexity of Simple Life Using a Cellular Automata

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USU Student Showcase

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Nick Flann


A Cellular automaton is an initial state (usually represented as squares on a grid) which changes to different states as simple rules are repeatedly applied. The current state of the automaton dictates the next state. Though simple in nature, the internal interactions can be complex. Conway's Game of Life, one popular automaton, is Turing complete. Most often implemented in software, these "machines" help us understand more about evolution, living systems, and the development of life. To study how multiple rule sets interact, I created a group of entities modeled after coral. Each type of entity possesses the same set of characteristics, but vary in survival strategies. Tests consisted of placing individual entities into simulated ecosystems, and measuring the growth of each species, both on its own and in competition with other species. For the environment, I chose MineCraft, an open-ended, block-based video game. As an additional measurement, I examined the program's Kolmogorov complexity. Results are expected to show the fastest-growing coral species survived best in most conditions, and that a stable ecosystem was not reached, though may be theoretically possible.

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