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A puffer (or puffer train) is a pattern that moves like a spaceship, except that it leaves debris behind.

Puffers can either leave only stationary debris, or a combination of stationary and moving debris; the latter class of patterns are sometimes referred to as puffrakes or dirty rakes.

Puffers may be referred to by the type of debris. For example, a puffer that leaves blinkers behind may be referred to as a blinker puffer.


The first known puffers were found by Bill Gosper and travelled at c/2 orthogonal (see puffer 1 for the very first one, found in 1971). Not long afterwards, c/12 diagonal puffers were found (see switch engine). Discounting wickstretchers (which are not puffers in the conventional sense), no new velocity was obtained after this until David Bell found the first c/3 orthogonal puffer in April 1996. Since then c/5 orthogonal puffers have also been found, the first by Tim Coe in May 1997. Jason Summers built the first c/4 orthogonal puffer in January 1999, and the first 2c/5 orthogonal puffer in February 1999. In February 2004, Hartmut Holzwart found a c/4 diagonal puffer, and in September 2010, Matthias Merzenich found a c/5 diagonal puffer.[1] In December 2013, Ivan Fomichev discovered a 2c/7 puffer,[2] and in 2016, c/10 orthogonal puffers were found.[3] In May 2021, the first elementary oblique puffer was found: a (2,1)c/6 block puffer based on the recently-discovered sprayer.[4]

Puffer engine

A puffer engine is a pattern that can be used as the main component of a puffer. The pattern may itself be a puffer (e.g. puffer 2), a spaceship (e.g. the Schick engine), or even an unstable reaction (e.g. the switch engine).


Orbit[5] is a term proposed by Jason Summers to refer to a natural stabilization of a puffer. For example, the switch engine has two known orbits, the block-laying one and the glider-producing one.


A restarter is a spaceship or puffer that uses a fuse faster than the ship itself and a certain means to restart the fuse. In Conway's Game of Life, slow puffer 1 and slow puffer 2 are restarters.

See also


  1. New c/5 diagonal technology at Game of Life News. Posted by Adam P. Goucher on January 26, 2011.
  2. Ivan Fomichev (December 26, 2013). Re: Weekender Reactions: Building a 2c/7 Puffer (discussion thread) at the ConwayLife.com forums
  3. Nico Brown (March 20, 2016). Re: is this c/10 spaceship known? (discussion thread) at the ConwayLife.com forums
  4. Adam P. Goucher (May 9, 2021). Message in #cgol on the Conwaylife Lounge Discord server
  5. Puffer Orbits at Game of Life News. Posted by Heinrich Koenig on April 20, 2006.

External links