The Origin of "life"_ About Particle Systems

This is more like Kangaroo than Conway’s life game. A particle system, not a cellular automata.
You can understand a particle as a point to which to add a vector (velocity) at each step, using anemone or C#. It is very easy to implement a system of particles reducing it to the Euler method:

ParticleList pts
while not converged
  foreach pt in pts
  foreach pt in pts

   // Swarm behaviour, not like video

Particle class
     Acceleration += Vector / Mass
     Velocity += Acceleration
     Position += Velocity * deltaTime
     Acceleration *= 0

This is the basic scheme, from here we are only interested in the forces you apply to achieve different behaviors (swarms, traffic, ants, growth (see below)).

But getting that kind of behavior is not easy, but it’s not too complex either. Actually they are simple rules, but the bad thing about this type of systems, is that they are highly delicate, not only work by the rules, they also need to be parameterized within very specific domains. A set of forces will only give you acceptable behavior if you give it the right weights. The same happens with Kangaroo. The same happens with real life.

If you want to learn how to model these systems regardless of the environment, I recommend you 100% to do it in Processing, plus you will have a thousand examples. Use GH-RH if you take it to 3d.

This is also a particle system, but as a mesh instead of free particles. That means there are forces that simulate membrane behavior. As in the video, there are forces that make each particle interact with its neighboring particles/vertices.

In short, learns how to model particle systems, and then investigates how to simulate different mechanical behaviors.


Here’s a file which has two components which could serve as the start of a framework for this.
The first component sets up an area and random population, the second component applies some rule to this population. In this case the rule is simply "move away from the nearest neighbour".

The setup is such that the particle space is reflected left-right and top-bottom, so the ‘nearest’ particle may well be on the opposite side of the field. (9.8 KB)

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Hi Antonio,

Have you seen my post about the Game of Life?

It’s cool that your posting all these interesting reference videos!

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@MateuszZwierzycki has one the more simple elegant conditions for GOL I have seen.

IF(stat = 0,if(nei=3,1,0),if(nei=2,1,if(nei=3,1,0)))

You can see it in this definition (requires Anemone).

Cellular Automata (13.1 KB)


Thanks! Good to see people adding great content to this thread. For me this algorithm should be study with a little more depth, it just has a lot of potential.

Scale Problem : an individual could be describe as a set of nested “games of life” at different scales.
Optimization : How to implement this type of algorithm to achieve a specific goal.
Systematization : How to describe a game of life using network and graph theory
Death&Reproductive Conditions : In a nested game of life, “death” could have multiple interpretations according to scale. So the death conditions for a cell are different from the death conditions of an human.

It would be interesting to know your opinion on these issues and which topics could be added?
Thanks Again!

If I understand you correctly, you are after a chimera between the Game of Life and an agent-based system (i.e. particles)?

OK, I get that, but first you’d want to get a simpler one-dimensional system going!
Implementing multiple dimensions or fractal states might be quite challenging and Grasshopper might not be the right app for this.
You’d really want to have every last bit of code optimised and strip away each piece of superfluous computational ballast, since the simulation would devour every bit of computation power you through at it.

That’s not to say that you couldn’t get similar effects in a simpler simulation!

Well, what are the tools at your disposition? And how much time are you willing to invest into this?

I think by now we’ve established that you absolutely need to program this yourself. There’s no GH plugin that can give you the needed amount of freedom and customisation, nor will there ever be.

Achieving specific goals is also pretty hard! You see the Game of Life and particle systems are interesting because a complex, unpredictable behaviour emerges from a set of simple rules. Emergence is the key word here! You can change the rules and dial-in the parameters (i.e. velocity, friction) beforehand but you probably won’t be able to exactly predict the outcome.

Describing the Game of Life with graph theory would be more or less straightforward, and needed if you want to integrate it into a particle system.

The individual cells in Conway’s CA are not really aware of their position in three-dimensional space. They just know their position (i.e. column, row) in the finite, two-dimensional grid of the game board. That’s also how each cell is aware of its neighbours. The left neighbour of a cell is simply the cell column minus 1 in the same row. This is a rather efficient and smart way to do things, since not much computation is involved, except simple integer calculations.

Now in an agent-based system, each agent or particle is at each frame of the simulation at least aware of its position and velocity in two- or three-dimensional space.
That’s already far more information that you need to store in your computer’s memory and update at each frame, and you haven’t even added the attributes for the integration of the Game of Life principles (i.e. dead/alive, neighbours).
Like in the Game of Life, each agent needs to be aware of its neighbourhood in order to evaluate its own state (dead or alive). For this you need to measure its distance to all other system agents, to find an x-amount of closest neighbours.
In a system of thousands of agents, this would be detrimental to the performance of the simulation. Fortunately, there are optimised spacial access models, like the R-tree algorithm (available in rhinocommon).

OK, one method to do nested simulations could be to do them separately.
You could do all “low-level” simulations, the games that somehow compose the cells/agents - and export the results (i.e. text file, CSV, YAML, JSON). In the “higher-level” game, you’d import and parse the information to form your initial cell setup.
Of course, there would be no communication or dynamism between the low- and high-level simulation, since the lower ones have already concluded.

I’d recommend looking at ’continuous cellular automata’, which the Lenia project you linked above is an example of.
They work similarly to Game-of-Life or standard Cellular Automata, where at each iteration each cell updates its own state based on the states of a small number of its neighbours, but instead of just switching between on or off, each cell has one or more floating point values which it increases or decreases using some equation taking the values of its neighbours as inputs.
Playing around with these in Processing as a student was one of the things that first got me excited about programming. I started out from a Game-of-Life example, and modified it to use continuous values. You can see some of these old experiments here.
The Processing applets don’t work in the browser any more, but you can still view the code here, where you see it only needs a few dozen lines of code. All the different variations in the videos above were basically just changing that equation for NeighbourMix.
It should be fairly simple to port something like this into Grasshopper (or indeed modify one of the Python scripts or Anemone definitions posted above to use continuous values).

I think Lenia is heavily influenced by SmoothLife, by Stephan Rafler - see: 1, 2

edit - for another very interesting approach which combines continuum values on a fixed grid like the examples above with particles as free roaming agents, see this Physarum work by Sage Jenson.


On 8 April 2020, Conway, who had been struggling with health problems for years, developed a fever from COVID-19. On 11 April 2020, Conway died at age 82.

Rest in peace, John Conway.


Check this out! Also ant related. :wink:


This is amazing!!!

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