Mudd Culture in a Nutshell

Hello, prospective Mudders! 

While I’m still a freshman at Mudd, the past few months that I’ve spent here and the stories that I’ve heard from upperclassmen and professors has helped me build a sense of what Mudd’s culture is. It became one of my favorite things about Mudd! Between the many cool stories I could think of, today I want to share the story behind the 42’ diameter circle in the middle of Mudd.

A tiled circle with a pattern in black and white

The circle in the middle of Mudd. Photo: Ana B. Studart.

As required by the LA County, the circle was constructed as part of the fire lane turnaround. However, what is interesting about this construction is the pattern on it, which was suggested to the design team by  Eli Brandt ’95 and is based on the Game of Life. 

Created by the British mathematician John Conway, this is a game where, based on a chosen initial configuration of “live cells” and “dead cells”, it is possible to determine future generations by using the following rules:

  1. Any live cell with two or three live neighbors survives.
  2. Any dead cell with three live neighbors becomes a live cell.
  3. All other cells die or stay dead.

The pattern in our campus was made by starting with this configuration:

A square black and white pattern on a screen

Generation 0. Photo: Prof. Zach Dodds

And then producing new generations 313 times! Here are some of the steps between the Generation 0 and the final generation. 

A disintegrated pattern

Generation 311. Photo: Prof. Zach Dodds.

A disintegrated pattern

Generation 312. Photo: Prof. Zach Dodds.

And the final one: the one that is in the middle of Mudd’s campus! 🙂 

A disintegrated pattern

Generation 313. Photo: Prof. Zach Dodds

Another cool detail is that this story was introduced to us by Prof. Zach Dodds in our CS005 class, and we even had a lab assignment of implementing the Game of Life! Below you can see my submission of this binary representation of the Game of Life from board A to its next generation. 

Two matrices with binary entries

My implementation of the Game of Life for our CS Lab. Photo: Ana B. Studart.

Finally, the diameter of the circle being 42’ was certainly not a coincidence. Our CS class has A LOT of references for the number 42!

Discovering this physical detail on Mudd’s campus just emphasized to me the computer science culture at HMC. People here are not only good at STEM but also really into applying it. The school embraces this spirit! 

My thanks to Prof. Zach Dodds who introduced this story to our CS005 class and who sent me all of these screenshots and other cool information!