I’ve been looking for suggestions of individual actions one can take to reduce CO2 emissions. In particular, ones which actually make a big difference (unlike, e.g., switching to LED lightbulbs). Everywhere I look, all I see is "have one fewer child" dwarfing all other actions by effectiveness. It's all anyone talks about.
The Web is full of figures like this one. It shows the one-fewer-child recommendation being equivalent to about 60 t/y, where the next-best options like “sell your cars”, “stop flying” or "be vegan" are mostly in the 1–2 t/y range. So high, they had to clip and compress the range on the graph so you could even see anything else. That looks pretty stark. That figure is so high, it seems as if nobody could ever hope live sustainably if they had even one child. They might as well be taking a long-haul flight every 10 days for the rest of their life! Now, we definitely shouldn't discount conclusions just because they are surprising or uncomfortable, but we should scrutinise them. That feeling of "…really?" is the first hint something might not be right.
Though it's called the "Game" of Life, and some people describe it as a zero-player game, it's not really a game in the traditional sense of the word.
For an unexpected example of an unambiguous game which is also Turing-complete, check out Magic: The Gathering. It has been shown that a Universal Turing machine can be constructed inside Magic, and hence that it is Turing-complete.
I played a lot of Magic in high school, though it's too expensive of a habit to keep up for long. If, like me, you remember Magic fondly, but don't play it so much any more, might I recommend Mark Rosewater's Drive to Work podcast?
Conway's Game of Life is a well-known cellular automaton in which, every tick, the state of each of the cells on a giant grid is determined only by the states of its immediate neighbours in the previous tick. Despite its extremely simple definition, it is famously Turing-complete, which is roughly to say that it can compute any computable function.
And so, of course, someone has written a Life emulator, in Life.
Here's what I'm doing this week: the 28th annual Mathematical Foundations of Programming Semantics conference. I am presenting a paper there, "A graphical foundation for schedules", joint work with my PhD supervisors Guy McCusker and John Power. There's a preliminary version of the paper which will eventually appear in ENTCS. The talk had slides, though they contained unnecessary illustrative animations which are not there on the pdf.
I watched this interesting talk on game design by Jonathan "Braid" Blow and Marc "Miegakure" ten Bosch. They espouse and explore a particular design aesthetic where the designer essentially plays the role of a mathematician. "Good design" then becomes a selection of orthogonal mechanisms (axioms), and an exhaustive-yet-minimal mapping-out of what's derivable (theorems), and then demarcation of the boundary. Since it needs to be fun, the real art has to come from crafting surprise and tweaking axioms to capture exactly what you want. They both make some very interesting points, and I thought this comparison with mathematics was a particularly cool and apt way to frame the ideas.
This aesthetic is particularly apparent in the examples they use in the talk, including Braid, VVVVVV, Ikaruga and the as-yet-unreleased Miegakure.