Imaginary battles #02


The Cellular Automata vs The Biomorphs

Our favourite computational life simulations left alone are happy to demonstrate all kinds of fantastic emergent behaviour – happy to swim in there territorial data ecologies flexing their complexity muscles and showing off their penchant 4 symmetrical mutation. But what if they were pitted against one another. The Automata Vs the Biomorphs – survival of the fittest!

‘Cellular automata are arrays of cells that “evolveâ€? step-by-step according to the state of neighbouring cells. Though apparently simple, the visualized output of a CA program can produce infinite permutations of complex graphical patterns known as emergent behaviour. At times they look like psychedelic fungal space invaders mutating in gamespace.

In a different universe Biomorphs take on the Transformers in a competition of organic and mechanical shapeshifting. In our universe they are computational simulations of genetic mutation invented by Richard Dawkins to promote a philosophical debate to do with natural selection and the existence or non-existence of God.’

Taken from a little essay I wrote a little while back for

If we were to judge them, perhaps they should judged on beauty alone. Below is a selection of fine links so you can work it all out yourself.


‘When I wrote the program [Biomorph], I never thought that it would evolve anything more than a variety of tree-like shapes. I had hoped for weeping willows, cedars of Lebanon, Lombardy poplars, seaweeds, perhaps deer antlers. Nothing in my 20 years’ experience of programming computers, and nothing in my wildest dreams, prepared me for what actually emerged on the screen.’

Blind Watchmaker Applet
Richard Dawkins’ evolution game
Les Biomorphs


Cellular automata are abstract structures which make it possible to study virtual completely known universes. They help us to understand our Universe : “Thus complex physical and biological systems may lie in the same universality classes as the idealized mathematical models provided by cellular automata. Knowledge of cellular automaton behaviour may then yield rather general results on the behaviour of complex natural systems.”

CA Gallery
Conways ‘Game of life’ Applet – Hit OPEN, select a rule set then click GO!
MJ Cell – download the program if you can, it’s the best CA Application I can find and it runs at the speed of light!
Cellular Automata & Art

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