Thomas Coffee is a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in Aeronautics & Astronautics and Mathematics. In addition to NKS, his current research interests include computational modeling, systems architecture, advanced life support, Mars settlement, education, and sociology. Hobbies include teaching, music composition, choral and piano performance, soccer, juggling, and of course Mathematica. He is currently the president of the MIT Mars Society and a charter member of the Mars Gravity Biosatellite Program, where he directed payload engineering throughout 2002-2003, including a research program addressing vestibular effects of artificial gravity.
Project: Characterizing Structure Propagation in Substitution Systems
The most interesting behavior in simple 1D cellular automata seems closely related to the propagation of localized structures or particles in the cell medium. Practically, such particles have been critical elements in proofs of computational universality for cellular automata like rule 110. Their importance seems connected to their ability to restrict information flow in the evolution of the system.
The emergence of particles in cellular automata has proved more subtle than previously expected, requiring an analysis incorporating features of backgrounds and pattern stability. From such an analysis, I hope to identify general features of particle behavior that can be extended to other types of systems.
In linear substitution systems, I plan to use the above results to identify examples of "class 4"-analog behavior and examine these in relation to universality. If possible, the insights thus gained will be extended to make predictions about more general substitution systems such as nodal networks.