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Building a Turing Machine from Magic the Gathering

If you really know your Magic the Gather and you’re a programming wiz you’ll appreciate this paper on building a functioning Turing Machine from Magic the Gathering cards. We’re sure you’re familiar with Turing Machines, which uses a rewritable strip to store and recall data. Most of the time we see these machines built as… machines. For instance, this dry-erase marker Turing Machine has long been on the top of our favorites list. But as The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson illustrates, there’s more than one way to skin this cat.

A complete list of the cards used in this machine can be found here. A little bit of preparation (casting to tweak abilities) goes into making sure the cards will work as called for in the Turing design. The tape is made of Ally tokens to the right of the head, and Zombie tokens to the left. The computational abilities of the head depend on the colors of the cards. It’s a bit too complex to paraphrase, but the design is based on this 2-state, 3-symbol setup whose rules are listed in the image above.

It’s going to take us a while to fully wrap our heads around this thing, but it’ll be fun getting to that point!

[via Slashdot]

Comments

  1. Eirinn says:

    Crap rare, crap rare crap rare :P

    But cool project! :D

  2. M4CGYV3R says:

    As I find the game itself utterly confusing, this machine is nigh unusable for someone as Magic-illiterate as me.

  3. mindbleach says:

    Huh. I knew high-level MTG was complicated, but now we can say it’s provably undecidable.

  4. Jonathan Wilson says:

    Cool project although I shudder how expensive it would be to obtain all the necessary copies of the various rare cards required to make it work properly.

  5. alextfish says:

    As it happens, it’s not actually expensive at all. The key is that, as commenter #1 said, all the rares involved are pretty useless in tournaments, so their prices are dirt cheap :) When I was building the combo, I wanted to try testing it in Magic Online, so I actually went out trading for all the cards necessary to make the combo, plus a few more to get infinite mana and search all the relevant cards out from libraries. I was able to pick up the 200ish necessary cards for less than $20 of the Magic Online equivalent currency. (Sadly the combo turns out to be a bit too convoluted for the poor MTGO servers to cope with, and it starts chugging a bit too slowly to get set up, more’s the pity.)

  6. Grovenstien says:

    possibly the most confusing thing I have ever read or wrote!

  7. Ren says:

    So, now feed this into IBM’s Watson, and….

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