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Pattern type Oscillator
Oscillator type Muttering moat
Family Clock
Number of cells 3
Bounding box 3 × 3
Frequency class 0.1
Period 2
Mod 1
Heat 4
Volatility 0.80
Strict volatility 0.80
Rotor type Pole 2
Discovered by John Conway
Year of discovery 1969

The blinker is the smallest and most common oscillator, found by John Conway in 1969. It is one of only a handful of known oscillators that is a polyomino, and it is the only known finite oscillator that is one cell thick (although the pentadecathlon is "almost" one cell thick in that there is a one cell thick pattern that is a grandparent of it, and the infinite version of the worker bee is one cell thick).

Blinkers are very commonly formed in a set of four called the traffic light; they can similarly be born in two potential sets of six, the interchanges. There is also a fairly common constellation of four blinkers and two boat-ties.

When phased correctly, blinkers can provide a purpose similar to an induction coil as seen on the overweight emulator, and can sometimes be positioned so that it either contacts the oscillating segment directly or is one cell away from it similarly to normal induction coils.

The blinker can function as a transparent catalyst in a certain reaction where it is converted into a traffic light predecessor, which a fishhook (or another catalyst that engages in the same type of catalyzing reaction, such as an eater 2) then converts back to a blinker in the same position. This rephases the blinker, so it can only be used in odd-period oscillators, such as 66P13 and the p47 pre-pulsar shuttle. In addition, worker bee and 50P35 involve a similar reaction.

A line of three consecutive cells (i.e. one phase of the blinker) can be a segment known as "line" in certain still lifes.


Main article: List of common oscillators

The blinker is more than one hundred times as common in Achim Flammenkamp's census as the second most common oscillator, the toad.[1] The blinker is also the most common object in that census and the second most common object on Adam P. Goucher's Catagolue, with the other object in the top two being the block in both censuses.[2] The apparent difference is a result of block frequency differing, not blinker frequency.[note 1]

About two thirds of blinkers form from traffic lights, including partial ones (such as interchanges, or if something interrupts its evolution).

Glider synthesis

There are two 2-glider collisions, one perpendicular and the other head-on, that create a blinker via a sequence named "angel" as shown below. Another perpendicular 2-glider collision also creates a blinker.

x = 5, y = 4, rule = B3/S23 2bo$2ob2o$bobo$2bo! #C [[ THUMBSIZE 2 THEME 6 GRID GRIDMAJOR 0 SUPPRESS THUMBLAUNCH ]] #C [[ GPS 4 THUMBSIZE 2 ]]
A common sequence that becomes a single edgeshot blinker, called an angel
(click above to open LifeViewer)
RLE: here Plaintext: here
x = 5, y = 3, rule = B3/S23 5o$o3bo$b3o! #C [[ THUMBSIZE 2 THEME 6 GRID GRIDMAJOR 0 SUPPRESS THUMBLAUNCH ]] #C [[ GPS 4 THUMBSIZE 2 ]]
Less common than the angel, but still decently common. Also forms a single blinker
(click above to open LifeViewer)
RLE: here Plaintext: here

See also


  1. It can be explained by Catagolue using a soup with empty space around it, allowing Herschels, which could easily have hit another object if it was a torus, to complete their sequence and form blocks.


  1. Achim Flammenkamp (September 7, 2004). "Most seen natural occurring ash objects in Game of Life". Retrieved on January 15, 2009.
  2. Adam P. Goucher. "Statistics". Catagolue. Retrieved on June 24, 2016.

External links