Turing machines are theoretical computers used to solve problems in mathematics, formal logic, and computer science. They form the basis of the modern concept of a computer, one with rewritable memory and programs. And as you’ll see below, they can be made from many things, especially very small things.
This is a Turing machine constructed using something nerds lovingly refer to as an “elementary cellular automaton,” meaning that it is a discrete model of interacting cells with “on” and “off” states.
The model shown above, known as Rule 110, is said to be “Turing complete,” it is capable—in theory—of modeling the behavior of a Turing machine and running any calculation or computer program.
Is it amazing that these little blocks can run any calculation or computer program? Is it elegant that we can do so much with so little? Does the similarity between simple computers and simple organisms point to something larger? How can you tell?
If you ever run out of storage space in the cloud, remember: there’s always rule 110.