A video I shot for this year's Tribeca Film Festival with comedian Duval Culpepper is now online. It was a delight to work with the whole production team.
Just got back from the Gathering for Gardner in Atlanta, where I had the pleasure of presenting with legendary mathematicians John Horton Conway and Richard Guy (who at 99 1/2 years of age is still as spry as a 25-year old!), together with Martin Gardner's son James Gardner and University of Oklahoma student Nathan Justus on John Conway's famous Game of Life.
John simplified Von Neumann's algorithm based on the idea of self-replicating robots. He did this by modifying the game of Go over 18 months, playing with five or six people until the rules just felt right. An important part of the game was having "persnickety" participants like Richard to make sure that every piece was put in its proper place. John felt that every key aspect of the Life algorithm was discovered during this period.
Once the Life algorithm was programmed by Richard Guy and his son Michael Guy (John's close friend at Cambridge), most nerds started playing with Life as a computer program. John felt that the computer program turned Life into "a spectator sport", and Richard Guy thought "it went too fast".
So this session was to encourage people to try Life the way John thinks of it... as a manual game. If you are interested in learning to play the Game of Life manually, just write to me for the directions or look around online. This 1970 article about the Game of Life was one of the most popular in Martin Gardner's years of columns for Scientific American.
For more information about John Conway, "the world's most charismatic mathematician", read this fantastic article by his biographer, Siobhan Roberts.