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15 February, 2005

Live pipes

This strangely compulsive 'Grid Game' (Flash) [Updte 16/04/08: dead link removed.] is Link of the Day at User Friendly.
It's not a test of skill; one merely clicks on a circular tile in the grid and watches the result.  The tile rotates.  If either end of the curved line on the tile meets the line on an adjacent tile, that tile rotates too.  The chain reaction proceeds until no lines meet.  The number of interactions is counted; my 'best' was 1625.  Visually, the chain reaction resembles the rules-based computer 'life' simulations of the 1980s, little clusters of activity migrating across the grid like bacteria across a petri dish.

When one starts or reset the grid, the pattern is practically random, many individual lines joining to form circles or long, composite 'snakes', with few isolated individual segments. By definition, when activity ceases, it's because there's no line linked to the last tile to move. The result is a very ordered pattern of individual segments.

Click on one of the composites and activity is likely, but it tends to be very localised and soon ceases.
Click on an individual and there's often no activity at all, as there's a high probability of there being nothing to react with.
Click on an individual in an array of identically-aligned individuals, and if they react, it's in a simple chain: activity proceeds along the line then stops. It's difficult to start, but once triggered, it goes a long way, in a predictable manner.

However, click on a composite next to an array of individuals and the brief burst of chaotic activity can trigger activity in multiple rows/columns of the ordered section, which can rapidly propagate across the entire grid, in turn triggering 'chaotic' clusters, which feed back into the 'ordered' arrays. This is a neat reminder that life flourishes best when there are balanced proportions of order and chaos!

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