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On the Edge

This five-square shape is called the R Pentomino. It looks very simple, but it creates a wild flurry of activity. Click Start to see.

This activity is "on the edge" in several ways. It is on the edge between growing and shrinking. As you watch, some clusters grow, others shrink. And remember, the "clusters" are in your mind: they are just a bunch of interacting squares.

The activity is also on the edge between order and chaos. Sometimes some stable patterns emerge, but they are attacked by the roiling activity. The activity never seems out of control, but it doesn't seem under control either. It takes hundreds of iterations for it to settle down.

The Seeds rules generally lead to chaos. Many other rules cause patterns to quickly lose their vibrancy and collapse into stability. The Life rules are more interesting because they are on the edge. The same can be said for life itself.

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Mitchel Resnick and Brian Silverman
Epistemology and Learning Group
MIT Media Laboratory

Last modified: 2/4/96