3D Ant Architect

Q: How many bits of information does it take to simulate a postmodern architect?
A: Two.

One of the most common criticisms of the Gentleman Scientist is that his work is not useful. What can it do, people ask – not realizing that nothing does anything useful without once having done nothing useful at all, and often for long periods of time. Nevertheless, we aim to be both thinkers and doers both, although this blog is our chance to tinker and be frivolous with our science if we wish. After a long day doing useful stuff, that’s the least we think we deserve.

Anyhow, in the spirit of the utilitarian (or our current “Minister for Science and Technology”, who we will not describe further for fear of no longer remaining gentlemanly in language), we have decided to ask Langton’s Ant and his cousins – what can you do for the world? And the answer, unsurprisingly, is that they can build things. All they need is the ability to move in three dimensions and one additional rule: defining a bounded region of the lattice as the “universe” of the ant, we move the ant “up” one cell in the third dimension whenever the boundary is reached, and then “wrap” the ant to the opposite boundary. So the ant moves in a new lattice that is topologically a torus (like the old Pacman games, wrapping at all boundaries) and moving up in space whenever a boundary is hit.

Langton's Ant building a tower
Langton's Ant building a tower

So now we know how postmodern architecture was born. Langton’s Ant (recall that he is the simplest “ant” with rule 10) builds a tower that is barely habitable but probably quite to the taste of the architectural “in-crowd”. A little more embellishment, and it begins to look a lot like the RMIT campus building in Melbourne’s Swanston Street.

You can watch the Ant Architect at work at: http://symmetri.com/flash/Ant3d.html

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