eli5: what is cellular automata


A while ago I stumbled upon images of cellular automata and was wondering what’s behind it. I checked the web but it was all out of my range. What are they used for and how can I explore them?

In: 1

It’s a type of theoretical machine. There are a lot of different ones but the basic idea is that each cell acts on the basis of the eight cells around it. The game of life is a simple one where if a cell has too many other occupied cells around it, it dies. If it has too few, it dies. If an empty cell has the right number of neighbor cells that are occupied, it becomes occupied. Turns out you can get some pretty complicated behavior from a simple set of rules.

More complicated ones can do more things that just exist or not exist. If you get more complicated and go 3-D, you start doing computational dynamics and can model how fluids or magnetic fields work as time progresses.