The Caterpillar is the first (and currently only) 17c/45 orthogonal spaceship to be constructed, and is the first engineered spaceship based on a crawler, 17c/45 reaction. It was created via a combination of manually-constructed parts put together by David Bell, Jason Summers and Gabriel Nivasch and a computer-aided construction coded by Nivasch. The Caterpillar's construction cost lots of time before completion on December 31, 2004.

Pattern type Spaceship
Number of cells 11880063
Bounding box 4195×330721
Direction Orthogonal
Period 270
Mod 270
Speed 17c/45
Speed (unsimplified) 102c/270
Heat 12114897.5
Discovered by Gabriel Nivasch
David Bell
Jason Summers
Year of discovery 2004

Caterpillar has 11,880,063 cells which can be reduced to 11,880,039 cells trivially.[1] In terms of population, it was one of the largest patterns constructed in Game of Life up to that point. The image to the right is zoomed out to a scale of 32 cells per pixel, showing only the top 3% of it. Encoded as an RLE file, it is over 29MB in size. Despite this, it moves at the speed of 17c/45, which is the fourth fastest known orthogonal speed explicitly.

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Various zoom levels of caterpillar demonstrating its size

See also


  1. Dave Greene (June 28, 2016). Re: Caterpillar's little brother research (discussion thread) at the forums
  • Caterpillar at the Life Lexicon
  • "The 17c/45 Caterpillar spaceship". Gabriel Nivasch's Life page (January 2005). A "brief overview" of how the Caterpillar works (with illustrations and RLE files of parts), the pattern in RLE format, plus complete C++ & RLE sources for assembling it.
  • "17c/45 "Caterpillar" spaceship". Jason Summer's Life page. A short summary of what the Caterpillar is with a few pictures, plus the pattern in RLE and .mc (macrocell) formats. Golly loads the macrocell file much more quickly than the RLE.
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