As usual, my head is reeling with “stuff” that’s flashed before my orbs. Let’s start with BuzzFeed. I know that their articles are click bait, so just call me “chum”; that is, bait consisting of fish parts, bone, and blood, which attracts fish. (On the off chance you were wondering, “chum” is referred to as “burley” in Australia and New Zealand). Of course, now I’m thinking of SpongeBob SquarePants and the Chum Bucket, which is an unsuccessful fast-food restaurant owned by Sheldon J and Karen Plankton that is located right across the street from the Krusty Krab.

In my previous column — Maps of a Flooded World — I referenced a BuzzFeed column regarding some rather clever insults that exclude the use of swear words. Well, I just ran across another BuzzFeed offering in the form of 60 Shower Thoughts that certainly gave me pause for thought, like: “If 24-hour clocks started at 23:59 and counted down till 00:01, people might try getting more done” and “One day your parents put you down and never picked you up again” and “It’s likely that over 99% of trees that you look at will be still here when you’re dead” (that last one is a bit of a bummer — for you, not for the trees).

But we digress… I’m sure you are aware that chameleons or chamaeleons (family Chamaeleonidae) — a distinctive and highly specialized clade of Old World lizards — are distinguished by their zygodactylous feet, their swaying gait, and the fact that many species have the ability to change their color. The reason I mention this here is that my non-fish-bait-chum Jay Dowling just pointed me at a column on Color-Changing Robo-Chameleons. That’s all I need. In addition to the fact that non-killer robots can out-dance me (see Do You Love Me?), we’ve now opened the door to the possibility of killer robots that can hide from us in plain sight.

Leaping from topic to topic with the ability of a young mountain goat, do you recall my column on Magnetic Connectors, Printable Transistors, and Bacon-Wrapped Appetizers in which I showed a video of my 12×12 ping pong ball array (each ball containing a tricolor LED) running Conway’s Game of Life (GOL) with randomly seeded universes?

Well, I have to say that the GOL never fails to amuse and delight, with new twists and turns appearing all the time. For example, I just ran across this video that depicts beautiful generalizations of the GOL that allow the rules to be changed in real-time and the color of the cells to be based on their age.

I was still gasping in awe when I came into contact with this video in which a neural network is allowed to evolve its own GOL patterns. Although the presentation itself is a little dry, the results are astounding and you really have to watch this to the end.

My impression is that the creator is using a form of genetic algorithm (GA) to evolve seed patterns that result in increasing complexity. Watching this video caused one of my little gray cells to spark into life. I just used the Cool Beans Search Engine to hunt for “Genetic Algorithm,” and it returned a link to my A Solution Looking for a Problem blog.

O-M-Gosh! It’s like déjà vu all over again (did someone just say that?). I can’t believe that as far back as summer 2020 I was already thinking of things to do with my array and saying things like, “It would be really cool to present the ongoing evolution of a genetic algorithm using this display, perhaps by varying shapes and/or colors […]” and “Could I use a GA to determine the optimum rules for a GOL, and — if so — would they be the same as the rules settled on by Conway? Alternatively, could I use a GA to evolve a pattern known as a spaceship, which translates itself across the array?”

I would stay to chat longer, but I just saw a bunch more things that made me squeal, “Oooh! Shiny!” so I must away. We will return to this conversation on a future occasion. In the meantime, do you have any thoughts you’d care to share?