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Biological Cellular Automata Laboratory (BioCA Lab)

This module includes both linear cellular automata and 2D cellular automata. For linear CA, users can choose from a set of popular rules or define their own. For 2D CA, examples of a toroidal, cylindrical, and walled spatial configurations are presented, with a library of preset patterns and the ability to customize patterns. The original 3 rules for survival, death, and birth are implemented in this module, but users with some Excel® knowledge can implement variations on these rules. Cellular automata have been extensively used in biology to model the development of pigmentation in textile cone shells, the spread of forest fires, and epidemics, for example.


John R. Jungck, Beloit College
Jennifer A Spangenberg, Beloit College

Published by: BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium

OS: win98:win2000:winXP

User Manuals and Curricular Materials
Popular Text Citations

Wolfram, S. 2002. A New Kind of Science. Wolfram Media.

Adamatzky, A. 1995. Identification of Cellular Automata. CRC.

Wolfram, S. 1994. Cellular Automata and Complexity. Perseus Books Group.

Bentley, P. J. 2002. Digital Biology. Simon & Schuster.

Poundstone, W. 1985. The Recursive Universe: Cosmic Complexity and the Limits of Scientific Knowledge. Contemporary Books.

Gardner, M. "The Game of Life, Parts I-III." Chs. 20-22 in Wheels, Life, and other Mathematical Amusements. New York: W. H. Freeman, 1983.

Meinhardt, H. 2003. The Algorithmic Beauty of Sea Shells. Springer-Verlag.

Research Articles

Jimenez-Morales F., Crutchfield J. P. and Mitchell M. 2001. Evolving two-dimensional cellular automata to perform density classification: A report on work in progress. Parallel Computing 27:571-585.

Guy, R. K. 1982. John Horton Conway: Mathematical Magus. The Two-Year College Mathematics Journal 13:290-299.

Shmulevich, I.; Dougherty, E. R.; Zhang, W. 2002. Control of stationary behavior in probabilistic Boolean networks by means of structural intervention. Journal of Biological Systems 10:431-445.

Kerr, B.; Neuhauser, C.; Bohannan, B. J. M.; Dean, A. M. 2006. Local Migration promotes competitive restraint in a host-pathogen ‘tragedy of the commons.’ Nature 442:75-78.

Data Sources

Eric Weisstein’s Treasure Trove of the Life Cellular Automaton.

Tutorial & Background materials

Weisstein, Eric W. "Life." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.

Cellular Automata FAQ, Tim Tyler.

David Griffeath's Primordial Soup Kitchen

Patterns, Programs, and Links for Conway's Game of Life, Paul Callahan.

Cellular Automata Laboratory, Rudy Rucker and John Walker.

Jungck John R., Spangenberg Jennifer A () Biological Cellular Automata Laboratory (BioCA Lab). A module of the Biological ESTEEM Collection, published by the BioQUEST Curriculum Consortium. URL: