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Caterpillar image
Pattern type Spaceship
Number of cells 11880063
Bounding box 4195×330721
Direction Orthogonal
Period 270
Mod 270
Speed 17c/45
Heat 12114897.5
Discovered by Gabriel Nivasch
David Bell
Jason Summers
Year of discovery 2004

The Caterpillar is the first 17c/45 spaceship that was constructed, and is the first crawler-based engineered spaceship, making use of the 17c/45 reaction. It was created via a combination of manually-constructed parts put together by David Bell, Jason Summers and Gabriel Nivasch and a computer-aided construction coded by Nivasch. The Caterpillar's construction took place over a long period of time, but it was completed on December 31, 2004. It has 11,880,063 cells; this, however, can be reduced to 11,880,039 cells through trivial modification.[1]

Caterpillar is, in terms of its minimum 11,880,063 alive cells, by far the largest interesting pattern that has been constructed in Life. By comparison, the Spartan universal computer-constructor has a larger bounding box, but only half a million live cells. The image to the right is zoomed out to a scale of 32 cells per pixel and still only shows the top 3% of it. Encoded as an RLE file, it is over 29MB in size. Despite this, it moves at the speed of 17c/45, which is the fourth fastest orthogonal speed with a known spaceship.



Various zoom levels of caterpillar demonstrating its size

See also


  1. Dave Greene (28 June 2016). "Re: Caterpillar's little brother research". Retrieved on 2 July 2016.

External links

  • "The 17c/45 Caterpillar spaceship". Gabriel Nivasch's Life page (January 2005). A "brief overview" of how the Caterpillar works (with illustrations and RLE files of parts), the pattern in RLE format, plus complete C++ & RLE sources for assembling it.
  • "17c/45 "Caterpillar" spaceship". Jason Summer's Life page. A short summary of what the Caterpillar is with a few pictures, plus the pattern in RLE and .mc (macrocell) formats. Golly loads the macrocell file much more quickly than the RLE.