Friday, August 08, 2008

Langton's Ant and the confines of Halacha

I'm not sure what the message from this is, but this is really neat. It is a thing called Langton's Ant, which is a computer program with only a couple of simple rules. The 'ant' (a colored square) is placed on an infinite grid of white or black squares. The ant moves according to the following rules: If it is standing on a white square it turns left, and if it is standing on a black sqare it turns right. When it leaves the square that square changes colour.

These are very simple rules (the 'two mitzvot of Langton's Ant') and so we would expect the ant to have a very simple life. Yet have a look at this website (click the RUN button) and watch what happens. You have to leave it going for a couple of minutes (the first 10,000 or so steps), to see something very interesting.

Have a look and see what you think. Try it again - the same thing happens.

I wonder how this impacts the discussion of G-d's foreknowledge and free choice.

(If you can't be bothered watching for a couple of minutes I'll spoil the surprise. This is what happens. It starts of making a simple pattern. Then it goes totally chaotic. Finally it settles into a pattern which repeats every 104 steps, building a highway leading off into the infinite. If you run it again the same thing happens, but the highway goes off into a different direction. My brain isn't big enough to understand how this makes any sense!)

Good thing we have 613 mitzvos, to give us some more variation than this poor ant.

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