|View animated image|
|View static image|
|Number of cells||5|
|Discovered by||Richard K. Guy|
|Year of discovery||1970|
A glider (or featherweight spaceship) is the smallest, most common, and first-discovered spaceship. The name is due in part to the fact that it is glide symmetric. It travels diagonally across the Life grid at a speed of c/4 and is often produced by randomly-generated starting patterns. Gliders are important because they are easily produced (for an example see the Gosper glider gun), can be collided with each other to form more complicated objects, and can be used to transmit information over long distances.
The glider was found by Richard K. Guy in 1970 while Conway's group was attempting to track the evolution of the R-pentomino. It is often stated that John Conway discovered the glider, but he himself has said that it was Guy.
- Main article: Glider synthesis
Glider synthesis is the construction of an object by means of glider collisions. It is generally assumed that the gliders should be arranged so that they could come from infinity - that is, gliders should not have had to pass through one another to achieve the initial arrangement.
Colour of a glider
The colour of a glider is a property of the glider which remains constant while the glider is moving along a straight path, but which can be changed when the glider bounces off a reflector. It is an important consideration when building something using reflectors.
To define the colour of a glider, first choose some cell to be the origin. This cell is then considered to be white, and all other cells to be black or white in a checkerboard pattern (i.e. the cell with coordinates (m,n) is white if m+n is even, and black otherwise). Then the colour of a glider is the colour of its leading cell when it is in a phase which can be rotated or reflected to look like the image to the right.
A reflector which does not change the colour of gliders obviously can not be used to move a glider onto a path of different colour than it started on. However, a 90-degree reflector which does change the colour of gliders is similarly limited, as the colour of the resulting glider will depend only on the direction of the glider, no matter how many reflectors are used. For maximum flexibility, therefore, both types of reflector are required.