Nils Aall Barricelli

The new issue of Cabinet has an essay by me on the work of Nils Aall Barricelli, maverick mathematician who created artificial living organisms... in 1953! A much longer essay on Barricelli will also be coming out in the winter Grey Room.

In order to create the image on page 49 of the article, I restaged Barricelli's original experiments using Processing. Applet and source code is included below.

To maximize the resolution and readability of the image, Barricelli's visualization technique was altered in two important ways. First, the y axis of the image is compressed by a factor of eight so that each gene is the size of one pixel (whereas in Barricelli a gene was eight pixels tall). With this increased resolution comes an increase in the visualization of evolutionary time across the vertical axis. Second, color has been introduced in order to differentiate genes more easily.

Each swatch of textured color within the image indicates a different bionumeric organism. Borders between color fields mean that an organism has perished, been borne, mutated, or otherwise evolved into something new.

Click to re-run the simulation.

Source code: Barricelli Cell Constants Norm

Built with Processing

Here are some other samples using a variety of different evolutionary rules: