COOL IMAGES: Math Bouillabaisse

Science  22 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5401, pp. 455
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5401.455d

This psychedelic diamond pattern is the cover of a 1999 calendar you can download at a site called the Primordial Soup Kitchen. Cooked up by mathematician David Griffeath of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the site is devoted to cellular automata (CA), grids that evolve depending on mathematical rules for how one cell, or point, is related to its neighbors. (Think of the computer program “Game of Life.”) Griffeath stocks his huge site with dozens of colorful CA images and Java applets for generating them. Although the explanations can get pretty technical, even mathphobes may delight in the intricate designs, which bring to mind everything from snowflakes to bacterial cultures and the '70s toy Lite Brite.

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