Many thanks to Tristan Morris for creating a beautiful illustrated hardcover print edition of the site

moderately geeky  moderately geeky

Case 184


Jinyu, the Abbess Over All Clans And Concerns, was inspecting the doings of her temple when she happened upon one of the new mobile-application developers, toiling away at his desk. She peered over the monk’s shoulder to see what he was working on, but his screen showed only tiny black squares pulsating on a white field. Jinyu rapped the monk’s head lightly with her cane.

“Explain,” said the Abbess, pointing her cane at the screen.

“I have devised a new sparse data structure,” said the monk, “and I wished to see if I could use it to implement an efficient simulation of the game of ‘Life’.

The monk tapped a button on his tablet’s screen, clearing it to a solid white. He then drew a jagged black line across it with a stylus. When he tapped this same button again the black line burst open, spreading across the display like pixellated confetti.

Jinyu frowned. “So this is ‘Life’, is it?”

The monk nodded nervously.

Jinyu cleared the screen as she’d seen the monk do. Then she took up the stylus and wrote neatly across the display:


When she tapped the button again, the words immediately putrefied and dissolved into a squirming puddle of black and white maggots. From the maggots rose swarms of black-pixel flies: scattering, multiplying, clashing, dying. Black scavenger ants left the decimated corpses, gliding away in unison to unknowable destinies at infinity. In a short time all that was left was a great white desert, where a few lonely specks of dust quivered in a faint, invisible wind.

Jinyu gave the tablet back to the monk. “A most accurate simulation.”

* The hover text of the illustration is from Dave Matthews Band’s “Ants Marching”, which fits nicely with the theme. And if you really want your mind blown, check out this wonderful implementation of Life in Life.