Phase Transitions in Cellular Automata

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As the density of black cells crosses the critical value 0.5, there is a sudden transition in the final state from all white to all black.

Contributed by: Stephen Wolfram and Kovas Boguta (March 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA



In many systems in nature and elsewhere, we find discrete structures — even when the underlying system is seemingly continuous. One origin of such discreteness is the phenomenon of phase transitions.

In this minimal example of a phase transition, we examine a particular three-color cellular automaton initialized with varying densities of black cells. Although we can continuously vary the initial density from all white to all black, the computation the cellular automaton performs changes in a discrete way.

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