I think cellular automata are interesting not because they resemble "life" but because they resemble the information processing that may occur in a nervous system.
Here are Java applets demonstrating cellular automata. The applets are a bit different from others you may have seen because they allow you to control the basic rules of the games.
The Game of Life This is the most popular and one of the oldest cellular automata. I think it's sort of like a little brain. Try the experiments and see if you think so too.
Brian's Brain This automaton is a little more like a brain.
Better explanations of cellular automata can be found at the links below:
Cellular automata: Digital Worlds by Alexander Schatten
Applets for Neural Networks and Artificial Life compiled by Akio Utsugi
Paul Conway's Game of Life Miscellany by Paul Callahan
Last revised 11 Aug 2003 (Dead links removed 13 Sept 2013)
M. Steven Evans [ mail | home page ]