Cellular automata are discrete models that usually take place on a grid (or lattice), with cells that take action based on their own state (for example, “on” or “off”) and the state of nearby cells. The Game of Life is an example of a cellular automata. Elementary cellular automata are a subclass that takes place on a 1-dimensional grid (a single row).

Reading from top to bottom, each visualized row represents the state of the cells over time. Each rule from 0 to 255 represents the action a cell will take given its own state and that of its immediate neighbors. For example, in rule 0, every cell will turn off no matter what. In Rule 184, the “traffic rule,” the number of cells in each state always remains the same, but sends ‘waves’ throughout the lattice. With random starting states, rules 30, 90, 110 exhibit unpredictable, chaotic behavior. Try other rules below!