Communication complexity and intrinsic universality in cellular automata

E. Goles, P. E. Meunier, I. Rapaport, G. Theyssier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The notions of universality and completeness are central in the theories of computation and computational complexity. However, proving lower bounds and necessary conditions remains hard in most cases. In this article, we introduce necessary conditions for a cellular automatonto be "universal", according to a precise notion of simulation, related bothtothe dynamics of cellular automata and to their computational power. This notion of simulation relieson simple operations of space-time rescaling and it isintrinsictothe modelofcellular automata. Intrinsic universality, the derived notion, is stronger than Turing universality, but more uniform, and easier to define and study. Our approach builds upon the notion ofcommunication complexity, which was primarily designed to study parallel programs, and thus is, as we show in this article, particulary well suited to the study of cellular automata: it allowed us to show, by studying natural problems on the dynamics of cellular automata, that several classes of cellular automata, as well as many natural (elementary) examples, were not intrinsically universal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-21
Number of pages20
JournalTheoretical Computer Science
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Cellular automata
  • Communication complexity
  • Intrinsic universality


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