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Caterloopillar image
Pattern type Spaceship
Number of cells 232815
Bounding box 734×514927
Direction Orthogonal
Period 2000
Mod Unknown
Speed c/8
Speed (unsimplified) Unknown
Heat Unknown
Discovered by Michael Simkin
Year of discovery 2016

Caterloopillar is the name given to a family of spaceships containing two major parts - the front and the back. In Caterloopillar each part has the properties of universal construction, and thus each part is constructing the building blocks of the other part, while also reading and moving a construction tape. As the name suggests, this creates somewhat paradoxical design, similar to the Strange loop concept.


The general idea of adjustable speed spaceship was proposed by David Bell in October 2006 on the LifeCA mailing list[1], and possibly earlier and independently by Jason Summers. Hartmut Holzwart revived discussion about the idea in September 2014 on the forums.

During those discussions, Alexey Nigin in 2014 proposed a a novel way of construction that would avoid helices, instead it would use two streams upward and downward, that create each other using slow salvo[2]. Surprisingly enough the final design of the first Caterloopillar was very close to his description.

Although Alexey Nigin proposed the Caterloopillar design, the idea was purely theoretical. The first example that showed the idea can be efficiently utilized was found by Michael Simkin few days after the initial suggestion[3].

The name was also extensively discussed, with suggestions including strange loop, strange-caterloopillar, pushmi-pullyou and caterloop, finally arriving to Caterloopillar.


The first Caterloopillar was constructed by Michael Simkin and completed on April 9, 2016; this Caterloopillar has a speed of c/8. Caterloopillars with many other speeds can be constructed using a slightly modified design. The major limitation of this implementation is upper bound of speed c/4, as the signal transferring is done by converting a still life into a glider and back, thus limiting the moving speed of the tape to c/4 (the speed of the glider).

See also


  1. David Bell (October 8, 2006). "Idea for various speed Caterpillars based on standard spaceships". Retrieved on April 11, 2016.
  2. Alexey Nigin (November 12th, 2014). "A novel way of construction".
  3. Michael Simkin (November 14th, 2014). "Caterloopillar first reading head examples".

External links