John Conway first theorized that it would be impossible to create a forever-expanding universe using these rules, which was proven wrong by a team at MIT, creating the “glider gun,” which is featured in the third gif.
Since then, thanks to computers, people all over the world have added new designs to the database, creating amazingly complex designs.
For example Andrew J. Wade created a design which replicates itself every 34 million generations! Furthermore it is also a spaceship (permanently moving pattern) and not only that, it was also the first spaceship that did not travel purely diagonally or horizontally/vertically! These types of spaceships are now appropriately named Knightships.
The simulation has some interesting properties, for example it has a theoretical maximum speed information can travel. Or simply, light speed - as that is the limit in our own universe. The limit is set to 1 cell per generation - after all how can you create something further than 1 cell away in one generation if you can only effect your immediate neighbours? And yet you can get things like the ‘stargate’ (Love the name, huge SG fan here.) which allows a space ship to travel 11 cells in just 6 generations.
Some smart people have even designed calculators, prime number generators and other incredibly complex patterns.
Radio and television broadcasting may be only a brief passing phase in our technological development. When we imagine alien civilizations broadcasting signals with radio telescopes, are we any different from earlier generations who imagined riding cannon shells to the moon? Civilizations even slightly more advanced than ours may have already moved on to some other mode of communication, one that we have yet to discover or even imagine. Their messages could be swirling all around us at this very moment, but we lack the means to perceive them just as all of our ancestors, up to a little more than a century ago, would have been oblivious to the most urgent radio signal from another world.
But there’s another more troubling possibility: Civilizations, like other living things, may only live so long before perishing due to natural causes, or violence, or self-inflicted wounds. Whether or not we ever make contact with intelligent alien life may depend on a critical question: What is the life expectancy of a civilization?
- Episode 11: The Immortals, Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey
The most fascinating aspect of this book is that it was originally written by I.S. Shklovskii in Russian, re-translated into English, whereby Carl adds his scientific “two-cents”, expanding on subjects and explaining further in a way only Carl, himself, can. For instance, the last paragraph in Chapter 31: Interstellar contact by automatic probe vehicles:
“At this point in the Russian edition of the present work, Shklovskii expresses his belief that civilizations are not inevitably doomed to self-destruction, despite his description of contemporary Western literature as filled with details of atomic holocaust. He expresses his belief that as long as capitalism exists on Earth, a violent end to intelligent life on the planet is probable. There is reason to assume, he asserts, that future peaceful societies will be constructed on the basis of Communism. I am able to imagine alternative scenarios for the future. No one today lives in a society which closely resembles Adam Smith capitalism or Karl Marx communism. The political dichotomies of the twentieth century may seem to our remote descendants no more exhaustive of the range of possibilities for the entire future of mankind than do, for us, the alternatives of the European religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Shklovskii says, the forces of peace in the world are great. Mankind is not likely to destroy itself. There is too much left to do.”