The Game of Light

In memoriam: John Horton Conway

In 1970 an article by Martin Gardner appeared in Scientific American disclosing for the first time a “game” invented by John H. Conway: a matrix of ones and zeros changes with time according to simple rules inspired by biology. Cells (ones) survive or die because of overpopulation, or starvation. The simple rules surprisingly generate a variety of binary animals, named gliders, blocks, and spaceships, among others. By pen and paper, Conway demonstrated that complex dynamics spontaneously emerge in the game. Ultimately, Conway’s Game of Life turned out to be a universal Turing machine, and it is the most famous example of Cellular Automaton.

I was deeply inspired by the possibility of generating complexity with simple rules, like many others before me. In more than 50 years, Conway’s Game of Life inspired generations of scientists. “Life” is at the inner core of ideas that pervade nowadays machine learning, evolutionary biology, quantum computing, and many other fields. It also connects to the work of Wolfram and the development of Mathematica.

I was intrigued by the interaction between light and complexity and I wanted to combine the Game of Life with electromagnetic fields. I report below my original post on the topic (dating back to 2008). The article was rejected by many journals and finally published in a book dedicated to the 50 years of the GOL ( Game of Life Cellular Automata, Springer 2010).

The Enlightened Game of Life (EGOL)

The link between light and the development of complex behavior is as subtle as evident. Examples include the moonlight triggered mass spawning of hard corals in the Great Barrier, or the light-switch hypothesis in evolutionary biology, which ascribes the Cambrian explosion of biodiversity to the development of vision. Electromagnetic (EM) radiation drastically alters complex systems, from physics (e.g., climate changes) to biology (e.g., structural colors or bioluminescence). So far the emphasis has been given to bio-physical, or digital, models of the evolution of the eye with the aim of understanding the environmental influence on highly specialized organs. In this manuscript, we consider the way the appearance of photosensitivity affects the dynamics, the emergent properties and the self-organization of a community of interacting agents, specifically, of cellular automata (CA).

Quick and dirty implementation of the EGOL in a Python Notebook

https://github.com/nonlinearxwaves/gameoflife.git

Machine Learning Photonics

Lake Como School of Advanced Photonics https://mlph.lakecomoschool.org/

NEW DATE: MARCH 15-19, 2021

The school brings together experts in emerging photonic technologies, machine learning techniques, and fundamental physics who will share with young researchers their knowledge and interdisciplinary approaches for understanding and designing complex photonic systems and their practical applications.  In the new era of artificial intelligence, algorithms and computational interfaces are broadly emerging as novel tools to do scientific research. The paradigms of machine learning also inspire interpretations and methodologies, in both theories and experiments. Nonlinear, quantum and bio-photonics, as well as optical communications, are surprisingly influenced by these new ideas. The summer school is aimed to explore machine learning applications in the specific fields of nonlinear optics and photonics.

The areas covered include, but are not limited to: machine learning methods and complexity of optical communication systems, including topics such as the nonlinear Fourier transform and transmission over multimode fibres; complexity in quantum systems emulated in photonics (including optical computing); complexity of emerging novel materials, device and components such as micro-resonators and plasmonic nanostructures. Importantly, the complexity in bio-medical photonic applications will be also considered as a high priority topic.

The summer school will focus on comprehensive review talks from major figures in complementary areas of photonics and machine learning. Invited speakers will deliver one or more 1-hour lectures over 5 days. We shall select up to 30 participants from the pool of most vibrant PhD students and postdocs, with a special focus on Marie Curie Fellows as future leaders of European photonics science and industry.