I'm Nathaniel Johnston, a math professor who co-wrote the first-ever introductory textbook about Conway's Game of Life. Ask me anything!
Hi Reddit! I'm Nathaniel Johnston, a mathematics professor at Mount Allison University in Canada. My co-author, Dave Greene (/u/dvgrn0), is also here. Together, we wrote the first introductory textbook on Conway's Game of Life -- a mathematical game in which 2D lifeforms follow very simple rules and yet can do spectacularly complex things.
The book is available for download for free as a PDF at conwaylife.com/book.
Conway's Game of Life was introduced by a mathematician named John Conway in 1970, and people have been finding and building increasingly complex and improbable lifeforms ever since, for more than half a century now. Early discoveries included lifeforms that travel through the plane. Then people started building lifeforms that are capable of doing things like computing prime numbers.
Today's Life pattern engineers can make Life do intricate things like print out the decimal digits of pi, or construct copies of themselves and behave much like real-world "cells" do, right down to having helices of DNA at their core.
So please, ask us anything! We're eager to tell you about Conway's Game of Life.
Edit (10:26am ADT): Sorry everyone, something has come up and I have to step out for a moment. I'll be back to answer more questions shortly (within an hour), and Dave should be joining us soon too.
Edit (11:20am ADT): Back! Answering questions again.
Edit (4:40pm ADT): Thanks for all of your questions, folks! Dave and I will pop in and out over the next couple of days to answer some more questions as time permits, but we won't be as quick from now on (i.e., the AMA is in a "mostly done" state, but we'll come back to it when we can).