Mandelbrot set zoom in

Abhijit Joshi


Langton's Ant

Number of steps completed by the ant = 0

Your browser does not support HTML5 canvas

Mark Twain was not aware of cellular automata, but his description of an Ant's behavior is not far from the truth. Here is an excerpt from one of his books:

Now and then, while we rested, we watched the laborious ant at his work. I found nothing new in him - certainly nothing to change my opinion of him. It seems to me that in the matter of intellect the ant must be a strangely overrated bird. During many summers, now, I have watched him, when I ought to have been in better business, and I have not yet come across a living ant that seemed to have any more sense than a dead one. I refer to the ordinary ant, of course; I have had no experience of those wonderful Swiss and African ones which vote, keep drilled armies, hold slaves, and dispute about religion. Those particular ants may be all that the naturalist paints them, but I am persuaded that the average ant is a sham.
I admit his industry, of course; he is the hardest-working creature in the world - when anybody is looking - but his leather-headedness is the point I make against him. He goes out foraging, he makes a capture, and then what does he do? Go home? No - he goes anywhere but home. He doesn't know where home is. His home may be only three feet away - no matter, he can't find it. He makes his capture, as I have said; it is generally something which can be of no sort of use to himself or anybody else; it is usually seven times bigger than it ought to be; he hunts out the awkwardest place to take hold of it; he lifts it bodily up in the air by main force, and starts; not toward home, but in the opposite direction; not calmly and wisely, but with a frantic haste which is wasteful of his strength; he fetches up against a pebble, and instead of going around it, he climbs over it backward dragging his booty after him, tumbles down on the other side, jumps up in a passion, kicks the dust off his clothes, moistens his hands, grabs his property viciously, yanks it this way, then that, shoves it ahead of him a moment, turns tail and lugs it after him another moment, gets madder and madder, then presently hoists it into the air and goes tearing away in an entirely new direction; comes to a weed; it never occurs to him to go around it; no, he must climb it; and he does climb it, dragging his worthless property to the top - which is as bright a thing to do as it would be for me to carry a sack of flour from Heidelberg to Paris by way of Strasburg steeple; when he gets up there he finds that that is not the place; takes a cursory glance at the scenery and either climbs down again or tumbles down, and starts off once more - as usual, in a new direction. At the end of half an hour, he fetches up within six inches of the place he started from and lays his burden down...

- Mark Twain, A TRAMP ABROAD - Chapter XXII (The Black Forest and Its Treasures)

To read the complete article, go here.