Rudy Rucker on “Logic, Chaos, Writing, Painting”

On 2022-08-01, Rudy Rucker, mathematician, science fiction author, professor of mathematics and computer science, artist, and my occasional co-author, gave a talk at the Bridges Conference on Mathematics and the Arts at Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland. His theme was how art, like much of what is interesting in the mathematics of dynamical systems and physics, occurs on the border between regularity (like the thump-thump-thump of a drum machine) and randomness (white noise). A written version of the talk (actually, quite a bit different) with high-resolution images of the paintings is posted on Rudy’s blog.

The edge between regularity and chaos is illustrated by the behaviour of cellular automata, which Stephen Wolfram has characterised into four classes, with Class 4 balanced on the edge. Some Class 4 automata have been demonstrated as capable of universal computation, and Wolfram speculates that most, if not all are universal. I discuss this as being part of the secret of life in my 2004 paper “Computation, Memory, Nature, and Life”.


This is absolutely enthralling! Thank you. I think I recall reading it some years ago, prior to my improved (thanks to you, John), but still shallow, understanding of computers and what they do. It affords some understanding and an important context for this silicon-mediated inflection point in human history. As I have said before, I am very grateful for your efforts at creating and maintaining the forums you have made and for your splendid and lucid explanations of many subjects. You have become an essential and beloved teacher and buffer of my senescence. I hope you are aware of this and derive the self-affirmation you so richly deserve.