Way back in 1999, I went to an exhibit on emergent behaviors at the now defunct Boston Computer Museum. While I had seen Conway’s Game of Life demonstrated before, I enjoyed it a lot more after seeing it in the context of this exhibit.

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Figure 1. A screenshot of Pestilence. Red is newly created life, black is life that has been alive for at least one step, white is empty space.

That same year, I created my first Life simulation in Flash 4. Unfortunately, Flash was not quite fast enough at that time to make much more than a small grid that slowly crawled along. The result was not particularly impressive.

Today however, Flash is a bit faster, as are most of our computers. I spent some time yesterday creating a life simulator in AS3. I applied a couple of bitmap filters to it in order to make the appearance more dramatic. You can view the real-time simulation at the bottom of this post.

Pestilence. Use your mouse to paint new "live" pixels onto the screen. The simulation pauses while painting.

If you have never heard of Life or emergent behavior, I highly recommend Mitchel Resnick and Brian Silverman's Exploring Emergence as starting point for understanding what Life is and why people like myself continue to find it interesting almost 40 years after it was devised.