Cellular Automaton Toybox

The Cellular Automaton Toybox is a lightweight Flash app I have developed during my explorations into ideas of Universal Automatism. For more details see my blog posts:
Universal Automatism - Everything is Computation
Universal Automatism - The Game of Life

Tech note: The app was written using Flash 9 / Actionscript 3. It is a very small file (5k) but it can hog the processor quite a bit while running the update loop, so apologies for those on slow machines.


START - run the update loop. This is currently fixed on a 1 second cycle.

STOP - stop the update loop.

STEP- manually trigger a single update.


While the update cycle is stopped you can draw on the canvas using your mouse.

CLEAR - wipe the canvas clean, set all cells to white.

RANDOM - seed the canvas randomly.

Behaviours (Discrete)

With discrete behaviours each cell has one of two states, either on or off (black or white).

Game Of Life

Rule 1: If a live (black) cell has 2 or 3 neighbours it continues to live, otherwise it dies of either loneliness or overcrowding.
Rule 2: If a dead cell has exactly three neighbours it miraculously comes back to life.

This is the classic CA behaviour, discussed here.

For examples of seed patterns to try, see here.

Vichniac Voting

Rule: If neighbour count (including self) < 4 or = 5, turn black, otherwise turn white.

A simple, life like algorithm discussed in detail here.

Parity Flip

Rule: Next State = North Neighbour XOR East Neighbour XOR West Neighbour XOR South Neighbour XOR Current State

From a random seed this is just oscillating chaos. But clear the canvas and start it from small simple shapes you get pretty kaleidoscope effects.

Brian's Brain

Rule: If state is firing, next state is resting. If state is resting, next state is off. If state is off and two neighbours are firing, state is firing.

This is designed to mimic the behaviour of neurons in the brain, which fire then rest before they can fire again. You can imagine this to represent how thoughts look as they wander around your brain.

Behaviours (Continuous)

With continuous behaviours the state of each cell is a value within a range - in this case shades of grey 0-100.

Wave (Averaging)

Rule: New Value = Current Value + Neighbourhood Average - Last Value

This is a standard physics behaviour, much like the behaviour of water. Starting from a random seed is like throwing a handful of rocks into a shallow pool of water. The water will churn chaotically at first, eventually settling averaging out to a steady state.