Visions Of Chaos 2D Cellular Automata Tutorial

A cellular automata consists of a grid of cells. These cells live or die depending on some simple rules. From basic rules complex structures can emerge.

For more detailed information about cellular automata see Wikipedia and Mathworld.



Initial population style - Sets how the initial grid is populated before the CA begins running. The default is a random population that uses the specified Random probability setting to determine how dense the grid is filled with alive cells.

Start at generation number - When changed the CA will run up to the specified generation before beginning display. The default value of 1 shows all steps and for most cases does not need to be changed.

Step delay - If the CA runs too fast you can eneter a value in milliseconds to pause between steps.

Border style - Determines if the edges of the grid wrap-around or not. If Dead Edge is selected then the grid is surrounded by a line of dead cells that never change. The default Wraparound setting is usually the best for most CA types.

Cell size - How big are the cells that make up the grid. The default size of 1 may be too small to watch on large monitors, so the cell size can be increased. There are also options to make the cells solid or to have a black border around them.

Color shading style - If set to shaded then the cells are shaded between the two specified colors depending on what state the cell is in. Current color palette uses the loaded palette file to shade the cells.

Survival / Birth Rules


These are the main settings that control how the cellular automata behave.

Number of neighbours required for survival - Sets how many neighbouring alive cells a current living cell needs to stay alive. If a living cell has too few or too many neighbours it dies (or in the case of multi-state CA rules its state count drops by 1).

Number of neighbours required for birth - Sets how many neighbouring alive cells a dead cell needs to become alive.

Number of states any cell can have - For the classic CA rules cells only had 2 states (alive or dead). Other CA rules allow more than 2 states. In these case rather than a living cell instantly dying, it decreases its state value and does not immediately die. For example a living state with 3 states would first drop to state 2, then state 1 and then finally die.

Preset Rules - A selectable list of various example rules.

Random Rule - Randomly sets the survival and birth checkboxes.



The music settings create "music" (quotes as it rarely sounds any good) from the amount of live cells on the grid.

Create CA 2D Midi Music - Turns on the music.

Lower and Upper Octave - Sets the octaves the music will be scaled too.

Scale Type - Various styles of musical scales.

State Instruments - Allows a different instrument to be specified for each state of the current CA rule.

Create Midi File - Outputs the CA music to a standard mid file for importing into other music applications.

LIF Files


LIF files are a standard format used in many CA apps. They contain both starting grid and rule settings. Most of these are great to show the complex patters cellular automata can create.