Saturday, 10 July 2010

Cellular automaton

One the most interesting topics in the field of complex systems are the cellular automata, which were invented by John von Newman in the 1940s. The cellular automata (plural of automaton) are grids of cells, where a cell is a simple unit that turns on or off in response to the status of local neighbor cells. There is a rule to update the status of each cell, and this rule is identical to all cells. This rule establishes the status of the cells in the next time step as a function of the current state in its local neighborhood.

At any point in the timeframe, the cellulr automaton processes information by applying its rule to its current configuration. Stephen Wolfram believes that natural systems work much the same way - that they contain information and process that information according to simple rules.

Why this idealized model of a complex system is so interesting?

This model simulates complex systems in nature, with no central controller and it can exhibit very complex behavior that is difficult or impossible to predict from the cell update rule.

See here a practical example of cellular automata:

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