Objets d'Bits: Thinking about Emergent Objects in Cellular Automata


James P. Crutchfield

Research Professor, Santa Fe Institute

Monday, November 20, 2000 at 3:45 p.m. in Room SC1125

Particle-like structures have garnered the lion's share of attention in research on cellular automata (CAs). Why this fascination? I'll review some of the (engineering) motivations for this focus, but conclude that it is ultimately subjective in the sense that it is not based on a first-principles demonstration that these objects are the main structures one needs to analyze to understand CA behavior.

Can we put the notion of particles---and, for that matter, other emergent objects---on a firm theoretical grounding? I'll recount some familiar and some recent results on structural decompositions of CA spacetime behavior, with a view to explicating the concepts of object, coherent structure, and boundary. Though they arise in a very simple system, the structures produced by CAs do give basic insights into these general concepts.

This lecture series on cellular automata and complex systems is sponsored by the Santa Fe Institute's Fellows-at-Large Program 2000 and taking place at Cal State Northridge.


Department of Mathematics

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