Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends
How new technologies are modifying our way of life

vendredi 11 juillet 2003

You can find the answer to this question, and to another one even more important, "should they be allowed to?" in this article published by NewsFactor Network.

In a recent issue of the journal Artificial Life, a group of Canadian researchers says yes despite warnings to the contrary -- most notably from author Michael Crichton in his new book "Prey," about self-replicating nanobots run amok.
To prove their point, the researchers have created a primordial soup that works like a digital DNA factory, where T-shaped "codons" swim in a computer-generated virtual liquid forming single, double, and even triple strands.
Like DNA, these digital particles "can be assembled into patterns that encode" information, claims robotics scientist Peter Turney in a new paper. For the first time ever, "we demonstrate that, if an arbitrary seed pattern is put in a soup of separate individual particles, the pattern will replicate by assembling the individual particles into copies of itself."

The name of their project, JohnnyVon, is a tribute to John von Neumann for his work on self-replicating cellular automata. [Note: you can even run demos on this site.]

But what would be the use of such self-replicating machines?

Nanometer-scale robots running the JohnnyVon program might be "the key to low-cost manufacturing," environmental cleanup, or any application requiring large quantities of robotic helping hands, Turney told NewsFactor. "Self-replication can make such large quantities economically feasible," he added.
Self-replication "is essential to nano-technology," Ben Gurion University computer science professor Moshe Sipper agreed. "We want to build one tiny machine that will go forth and replicate -- but not multiply ad infinitum."

For more information, you can read the abstract of their paper "Self-replicating machines in continuous space with virtual physics," or the full PDF version.

Source: Mike Martin, NewsFactor Network, July 10, 2003

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