Tag Archives: demos

What is a chemlambda quine?

UPDATE 3: I made a landing page for my pages to play and learn.

UPDATE 2: And now there is Fractalize!

UPDATE: The most recent addition to the material mentioned in the post is Find a Quine, which let you generate random 10 nodes graphs (there are 9 billion of them) and to search for new quines. They are rare, but today I found 3 (two all of them are shown as examples).  If you find one, mail me the code (instructions on the page).


The ease of use of the recently written chemlambda.js makes easier the sharing of past ideas (from the chemlambda collection) and as well of new ideas.

Here is some material and some new thoughts. Before this, just recall that the *new* work is in hapax. See what chemlambda has to do with hapax, especially towards the end.

A video tutorial about how to use the rest of new demos.

The story of the first chemlambda quine, deduced from the predecessor of a Church number. Especially funny is that this time you are not watching an animation, it happens in front of you 🙂

More quines and random eggs, if you want to go further in the subject of chemlambda quines.  The eggs are 4-nodes graphs (there are 720 of them). They manifest an amazing variety of behaviour. I think that the most interesting is that there are quines and there are also graphs which have a reversible evolution, without being quines. Indeed, in chemlambda a quine is one which has a periodic evolution (thus is reversible) under the greedy algorithm of rewrites. But there is also the reversible, but not quine case, where you can reverse the evolution of a graph by picking a sequence of rewrites.

Finally, if you want to look also at famous animations, you have the feed the quine. This contains some quines but also some other graphs which featured in the chemlambda collection.

Most of all, come back to see more, because I’m going to update and update…

All successful computation experiments with lambda calculus in one list

What you see in this links: I take a lambda term, transform it into a artificial molecule, then let it reduce randomly, with no evaluation strategy. That is what I call the most stupid algorithm. Amazing is that is works.
You don’t have to believe me, because you can check it independently, by using the programs available in the github repo.

Here is the list of demos where lambda terms are used.

Now, details of the process:
– I take a lambda term and I draw the syntactic tree
– this tree has as leaves the variables, bound and free. These are eliminated by two tricks, one for the bound variables, the other for the free ones. The bound variables are eliminated by replacing them with new arrows in the graph, going from one leg of a lambda abstraction node, to the leaf where the variable appear. If there are more places where the same bound variable appears, then insert some fanout nodes (FO). For the free variable do the same, by adding for each free variable a tree of FO nodes. If the bound variable does not appear anywhere else then add a termination (T) node.
– in this way the graph which is obtained is no longer a tree. It is a trivalent graph mostly, with some free ends. It is an oriented graph. The free ends which correspond to a “in” arrow are there for each free variable. There is only one end which correspond to an “out” arrow, coming from the root of the syntactic tree.
– I give a unique name to each arrow in the graph
– then I write the “mol file” which represents the graph, as a list of nodes and the names of arrows connected to the nodes (thus an application node A which has the left leg connected to the arrow “a”, the right leg connected to the arrow “b” and the out leg connected to “c”, is described by one line “A a b c” for example.

OK, now I have the mol file, I run the scripts on it and then I look at the output.

What is the output?

The scripts take the mol file and transform it into a collection of associative arrays (that’s why I’m using awk) which describe the graph.

Then they apply the algorithm which I call “stupid” because really is stupidly simplistic: do a predetermined number of cycles, where in each cycle do the following
– identify the places (called patterns) where a chemlambda rewrite is possible (these are pairs of lines in the mol file, so pairs of nodes in the graph)
– then, as you identify a pattern, flip a coin, if the coin gives “0” then block the pattern and propose a change in the graph
– when you finish all this, update the graph
– some rewrites involve the introduction of some 2-valent nodes, called “Arrow”. Eliminate them in a inner cycle called “COMB cycle”, i.e. comb the arrows

As you see, there is absolutely no care about the correctness of the intermediary graphs. Do they represent lambda terms? Generically no!
Are there any variable which are passed, or evaluations of terms which are done in some clever order (eager, lazy, etc)? Not at all, there are no other variables than the names of the arrows of the graph, or these ones have the property that they are names which appear twice in the mol file (once in a port “in”, 2nd in a port “out”). When the pattern is replaced these names disappear and the names of the arrows from the new pattern are generated on the fly, for example by a counter of arrows.

The scripts do the computation and they stop. There is a choice made over the way of seeing the computation and the results.
One obvious choice would be to see the computation as a sequence of mol files, corresponding to the sequence of graphs. Then one could use another script to transform each mol file into a graph (via, say, a json file) and use some graph visualiser to see the graph. This was the choice in the first scripts made.
Another choice is to make an animation of the computation, by using d3.js. Nodes which are eliminated are first freed of links and then they vanish, while new nodes appear, are linked with their ports, then linked with the rest of the graph.

This is what you see in the demos. The scripts produce a html file, which has inside a js script which uses d3.js. So the output of the scripts is the visualisation of the computation.

Recall hat the algorithm of computation is random, therefore it is highly likely that different runs of the algorithm give different animations. In the demos you see one such animation, but you can take the scripts from the repo and make your own.

What is amazing is that they give the right results!

It is perhaps bizzare to look at the computation and to not make any sense of it. What happens? Where is the evaluation of this term? Who calls whom?

Nothing of this happens. The algorithm just does what I explained. And since there are no calls, no evaluations, no variables passed from here to there, that means that you won’t see them.

That is because the computation does not work by the IT paradigm of signals sent by wires, through gates, but it works by what chemists call signal transduction. This is a pervasive phenomenon: a molecule enters in chemical reactions with others and there is a cascade of other chemical reactions which propagate and produce the result.

About what you see in the visualisations.
Because the graph is oriented, and because the trivalent nodes have the legs differentiated (i.e. for example there might be a left.in leg, a right.in leg and a out leg, which for symmetry is described as a middle.out leg) I want to turn it into an unoriented graph.
This is done by replacing each trivalent node by 4 nodes, and each free end or termination node by 2 nodes each.
For trivalent nodes there will be one main node and 3 other nodes which represents the legs. These are called “ports”. There will be a color-coded notation, and the choice made is to represent the nodes A (application) and FO by the main node colored green, the L (lambda) and FI (fanin, exists in chemlamda only) by red (actually in the demos this is a purple)
and so on. The port nodes are coloured by yellow for the “in” ports and by blue for the “out” ports. The “left”, right”, “middle” types are encoded by the radius of the ports.


All chemical reactions needed for a molecular computer

I’ve updated the molecular computer demo and I’ve created a new demo page where you can see all chemical reactions needed for building a molecular computer.

If you are interested please read and play with both demos.

The purpose of the demo is simple: if anybody would identify real chemical reactions between small molecules and (invisible in the demo) other molecules, one per move (I call them “moves enzymes”), then it would be possible, in principle, to design molecules which compute, by themselves, without any laboratory management, by these chemical reactions. Any such molecule should be regarded as a program which executes itself. The result of the computation is encoded in the shape of the molecule, not in the number of (more or less arbitrary) chosen molecules.

See also the post Molecular computers.


Experiments with a little lisper tutorial

I used the excellent lambda calculus tutorial by Mayer Goldberg from the little-lisper.org for some experiments in chemlambda.

UPDATE: See also the post The working factorial and the video


There are five of them.

The mentioned tutorial is the source for the lambda term which I translated into chemlambda and then used in the Ackermann function demos. The most outrageously successful is the computation of Ack(2,2) while self-multiplicating. The daughter molecules do not end at the same time, moreover.

Here is a video of a screen recording at 2X speed.

Now, there is a very puzzling thing here. In chemlambda with a random, purely local graph rewriting algorithm I can compute the Ackermann function. But what about simpler functions, like the factorial?

I tried the easy way consisting into translation of lambda terms for the factorial into chemlambda and the results are ugly. As a geometer who wants to decipher computation without using variables, values, variable passing or evaluations, I know that chemlambda is different because of this feature it has: it uses something like signal transduction instead of gates-and-wires general model from IT. So there has to be consequences of that.

Let’s see what happens in the case of the factorial. In this demo I took the lambda term from the same tutorial, par. 57, page 14. I hoped will work better than other proposals, based on the experience with the Ackermann function. I noticed in other experiments with terms for the factorial that the reduction in chemlambda is extremely wasteful, producing thousands of nodes and lots of trash. Moreover, there is a problem with the fix point combinator, explained in the article with Louis Kauffman Chemlambda, universality and self multiplication, and described in the older demos like this one. In chemlambda, the molecule which corresponds to the Y combinator reduces to a very simple one (which does not has an equivalent as a lambda term), made by only two nodes, fanout and application. Then the molecule becomes a gun which shoots pairs of fanout and application node. There is no mystery about the Y combinator in chemlambda, the real mechanism of it consists in the self-multiplication by the fanout node. [Note: in the old demo and in the article linked there is no FOE fanout. The FOE and the moves associated to it are a recent addition to the formalism, see the page of moves.]

The problem of using the Y combinator is that it never stops generating pairs of A and FOE nodes. In a computation which implements recurrence by the Y combinator, at some point, according to a IFTHENELSE or ISZERO, the cycle of Y is broken. But in chemlambda the Y gun molecule continues to exist and this leads to a never ending computation. From one side this is OK, see for example the life-like computations with chemlambda quines. Actually there is a stronger relation between chemlambda quines and the Y combinator molecule. One can design the computation to be such that when the Y molecule is no longer needed, it is encapsulated into a quine, but this is for another time to explain in detail.

I come back to the factorial example. In the demo I linked you can see that the computation of the factorial is wasteful (and paradoxically leads to a Y molecule), even if it does not use a fix point combinator.


First I thought it is because of currying and uncurrying. In chemlambda, because it is a graph rewrite system, there is no particular need to use currying all the time.

Then, to check this, I modified the molecule from the little lisper tutorial in order to geometrically compute the repeated application of a function f(a,b)=(succ(a), succ(a)b). The function is a piece of a graph with two in and two out links which is self-multiplying under the action of a number in the Church encoding.

Here is a successful computation with this molecule. But does it work all the time or have I been lucky? The reduction algorithm is random and different runs may give different results. It is the case with the Ackermann function computation as well, but that one was successful all the time.

Oh, it turns out that the computation with that molecule works well in about 20% of the runs. Here is an unsuccessful run.

So there is still a problem, but which one?

Under close examination the computation is still wasteful, because of the term (piece of molecule) c0, for the 0 in the Church encoding. In chemlambda this term corresponds to a small molecule which has a termination node inside.

When we want to thrash, like programmers do, something useless, in chemlambda the useless piece does not disappear. Is like in nature, the thing continues to exist and continues to interact, while in the process of degradation, with the rest of the environment.

The termination node, via the PRUNING moves, destroys slowly the useless part, but pother pieces form the useless part continue to interact with the rest of the graph.

Is this the problem?

In order to check this I further modified the molecule which was successful 20% of the time. I just replaced c0 by c1, which is the (molecule for) the lambda term for 1 in the Church encoding. Now, c1 does not have any termination node inside.

The price is that I no longer compute the factorial, but instead I compute the repeatedly applied function

F(a,b)=(succ(a), tms(a,b))

where tms(a,b)=ab+1. Here is a demo for the computation of tms(3,3) in chemlambda., and further is a video for tms(5,5)=26, where you can see a new creature, more complex than the walker discover in the predecessor.

I checked to see what is the closed expression, if any, for the function I compute, namely

f(0)=1, f(n+1) = (n+1)f(n) + 1

and the Wolfram Alpha engine has an interesting answer.

Well, this time I hit the right spot. The computation works, again and again and again.

So we have to learn to program ecologically with chemlambda.


New pages of demos and dynamic visualizations of chemlambda moves

The following are artificial chemistry visualizations, made in d3.js. There are two main pages: the first is with demos for #chemlambda   reductions, the second is with dynamic visualizations of the graph rewrites.
Bookmark these pages if you are interested, because there you shall find new stuff on a day-by-day basis.