Exact quantification of the complexity of spacewise pattern growth in cellular automata

Freire JG, Brison OJ, Gallas JAC
J. Phys. A: Math. Theor. 42 395003,

Download PDF


We analyze the two possible ways of simulating complex systems with cellular automata: by using the familiar timewise updating or by using the complementary spacewise updating. Both updating algorithms operate on identical sets of initial conditions defining the state of the automaton. While timewise growth generally probes just vanishingly small sets of initial conditions producing statistical samples of the asymptotic attractors, spacewise growth operates with much restricted sets which allow one to simulate them all, exhaustively. Our main result is the derivation of an exact analytical formula to quantify precisely one of the two sources of algorithmic complexity of spacewise detection of the complete set of attractors for elementary 1D cellular automata with generic non-periodic architectures of any arbitrary size. The formula gives the total number of initial conditions that need to be investigated to locate rigorously all possible patterns for any given rule. As simple applications, we illustrate how this knowledge may be used (i) to uncover missing patterns in previous classifications in the literature and (ii) to obtain surprisingly novel patterns that are totally unreachable with the time-honored technique of artificially imposing spatially periodic boundary conditions.