President Bush announced tonight (Aug. 9) that he will allow federal funding only for very limited types of stem cell research. Specifically, he decided to approve funding only for research into some 60 lines of embryo-derived stem cells already in existence. He will also allow funding for stem cell research using adult, placental, or animal cells, but he has denied federal funding to attempts to create new stem cell lines. This ban includes the creation of embryos specifically for stem-cell extraction as well as the less controversial extraction of cells from "extra" embryos to be discarded after fertility procedures.
The decision has hardly been public for a few hours, but it is already meeting with harsh criticism from all quarters. Seen as a "compromise position" between radical conservatives and stem-cell advocates, the decision has aroused the ire of numerous conservatives who believe an embryo is equivalent to a human life. They argue that the door has now been opened to future expanded research, which they say denies the sanctity of life by destroying embryos.
More scientifically minded critics reply from the opposite direction, objecting that the window for federal funding is too narrow and restrictive. New stem-cell lines, which cannot be federally funded, would increase the genetic diversity available to researchers and could lead to improved treatments for patients with specific disorders. The decision also denies funding to stem-cell research with embryos headed for destruction, which critics say is wasteful and irresponsible. Moreover, other countries - especially Great Britain - have a much more permissive policy on the treatment of embryos that could attract the best researchers, creating a "brain drain" out of the United States.
For more information, see http://www.msnbc.com/news/610311.asp?pne=msn. To discuss these issues, please visit the Replicators Forum.
The United States House of Representatives recently voted to categorically ban all forms of human cloning, passing a bill that includes a $1 million fine and a 10-year prison term for those who do attempt to clone humans. The bill is so restrictive that even limited forms of cloning, such as cloning embryos for research, are categorically forbidden.
This decision has the potential to seriously hamper American biotechnology. If cloning embryos is seen as a federal crime, then potentially life-saving or life-sustaining research into diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's would be effectuvely halted. Americans who go abroad to seek treatments developed using cloning technologues might also be criminalized.
The bill now awaits a vote from the Democrat-controlled Senate. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has already issued a statement urging the Senate to take a more responsible view of the cloning situation.
|MSNBC, 31 July 2001.
House votes to ban all human cloning
The "Code Red" computer worm is slated to enter a "proliferation phase" on August 1st, at which point it will try to transmit copies of itself through the Internet to uninfected and unsuspecting Windows NT or Windows 2000 systems. Each successful infection begets 100 attacks on other machines, making the worm a powerful replicator in the new and unique replicative realm in the computer world.
Code Red supposedly spends the first 20 days of each month trying to spread itself to uninfected machines. On the 20th of each month, it turns to an attack on the White House website, reverting back to the proliferation phase on the first of the month. Code Red was first detected on July 19, when it infected over 250,000 systems in 9 hours. Since then it has apparently mutated, abandoning a provision for website defacement. Moreover, it will have much more time to spread this time, because it is beginning a new cycle with the 1st of the month rather than the 19th. A simple patch from Microsoft will block Code Red, but large numbers of small-business machines could be vulnerable.
|MSNBC, 30 July 2001.
Government, security officials sound alarm over ‘Code Red’ worm
The Pew Internet & American Life Project recently released a report on the role of the Internet in the lives of modern American teenagers. The report, which analyzes teens' amount of time spent on the Internet and most frequent online activities, supports the view that the Internet is a premier meme-spreader. Fully 94% of the study's research sample use the Internet in school research; for 71%, it is a primary source of research information. Another 54% keep up with trends in fashion and music through the Internet, and 26% find answers to awkward or private questions. Dowloading music, visiting entertainment sites, responding to advertisements, and researching/buying products were also major activities for online teens.
The report also stated that teenagers often use the Internet, either through Instant Messaging or email, to communicate with one another and to begin or cement social relationships. All these findings indicate that the Internet is becoming one of the most popular methods of communication among teenagers, meaning that lots of memes are being transmitted within teenage populations. We hope that all those online researchers remember Replicators when they have a biology project due!
Click here to read the full report, see the questionnaire the researchers used, or find out more about the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Scientist, essayist, and author Richard Dawkins - whose ideas provided the foundation of this website - has recently been hired as a regular columnist for Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. Dawkins has served as an editor of the magazine for several years. He will now write a quarterly column on a topic of his choice beginning with the Summer 2001 issue.
Reflecting on the cloning technology that some say will produce cloned humans in the near future, many scientists express concern over random abnormalities that appear in almost every cloned animal to date. Clones are often afflicted with errors in developmental processes, defects in vital organs, and flaws in metabolic processing that are difficult to predict or even detect before they manifest themselves. Apparently, there is no one specific problem that can be identified as the cause of the abnormalities; the only link is the process of cloning itself.
Some experts believe that the problem lies in the fact that, in order to make a clone, adult genes are inserted into an egg that has been "gutted" of its own genes. The egg must then "program" the genes to ready them for the process of directing the development of the embryo. In normal eggs, this process of programming takes months to years; in cloning, the egg is given only minutes or hours to perform the same function. Errors in such programming can cause subtle but pernicious defects in the way genes direct development.
Human cloning is often seen as the wave of the future, and two infertility specialists have recently announced their intention of producing a human clone in the near future. However, as this data shows, the time is far from ripe - the techniques of cloning have not yet been perfected for other mammals. The problems associated with the cloning process sometimes manifest themselves early in the life of the clone, and sometimes do not appear until adolescence or later. A human clone would face the same dangers and likely encounter similar problems. Many experts in the field of cloning argue that attempting to clone a human with these flawed techniques would be a profound moral, ethical, and scientific error.
|Providence Journal, 25 March 2001.
"Cloned animals show random abnormalities"
by Gina Kolata for the New York Times
The three students and three coaches who worked to bring you Replicators: Evolutionary Powerhouses traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, to take part in website judging and fun activities planned for ThinkQuest finalists. At the Awards Ceremony held the night of 19 March, we were declared the winners of the Platinum Award in the Interdisciplinary category for ThinkQuest 2000! The other ThinkQuest 2000 winners can be viewed here. More information will be available as we put together a picture tour of our meeting in Geneva!
Three years of planning and construction have finally yielded results for the scientists and designers of Britain's Eden Project, an ecology-based theme park in Cornwall, England. The park is physically composed of a series of enclosed geodesic domes that together comprise the world's largest greenhouse. The project will feature several enclosed "biomes" exhibiting the wide variety of plants humans have used over the years. The project's main focus is not on taxonomy, but rather on establishing the close interrelations of human and plant life. The project also emphasizes conservation and aims to develop ecologically friendly ways of cultivating crops.
The project leaders hope to attract tourists and environmentalists alike, but their plans to exhibit the wide variety of replicator vehicles embodied by plants have hit a snag. Another replicator has intruded on the edenic theme park - the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease. The recent outbreak of this disease in Britain threatens to vastly decrease the number of expected tourists visiting the project, and corporate leaders and environmental activists are less likely to schedule conferences and tours. The success of the viral replicator is impinging on the replication of the Eden Project meme, which itself is intended to promote awareness of other replicator vehicles. A virtual horde of replicating entities!
|MSNBC, 14 March 2001.
Amid controversy, Eden rises anew
Ursula Owre Masterson and Reuters
In the March 2001 issue of Scientific American magazine, Jonathan B. Lozos presents an intriguing analysis of evolution in the anole lizards of the Greater Antilles. According to Lozos, the species that occur in the same environment always differ in habitat - that is, some will dwell only in grass, others on twigs, others near tree trunks. These same habitat patterns are repeated over and over across multiple islands. Genetic sequencing analyses suggest that each specialist on each island evolved convergently, and that lizards on the same island were more closely related than similar specialists on different islands.
Related lizard studies also produced some interesting results. Lozos and colleagues report that lizards raised in different environments - for example, on a narrow surface like a twig versus a broad surface like a tree trunk - and found that these environmental cues also have noticeable effects on the adult lizards' morphology. This phenotypic plasticity could be an important factor in adaptive radiation and convergent evolution such as that analyzed on the Greater Antilles. Lozos also reported experiments demonstrating that competition between coexisting lizard species could be another factor leading to adaptive radiation.
|Scientific American, March 2001
Evolution: A Lizard's Tale
Jonathan B. Lozos
United States wheat farmers, once a consumer group eager to accept genetically modified foods, has recently displayed major concerns over the cultivation of biotech wheat. After the public-relations mess following the recall of StarLink corn, which was not approved for human consumption in the U.S. but managed to enter the food supply, farmers are leery of being trapped in another similar disaster. Adding to the pressure are ultimatums form two major foreign wheat distributors, who have already announced that they will not accept genetically modified wheat products from the U.S. Since half the U.S.-grown wheat is exported, foreign market reactions are vital to the farmers' eventual decisions.
The new variety of wheat, distributed by agribusiness giant Monsanto, is genetically designed to be immune to Monsanto's weedkiller Roundup. The immunity allows farmers to safely use Roundup on weeds without the threat of harming or destroying valuable wheat plants. Roundup-resistant soybeans are already on the market and are quite popular. Monsanto plans to distribute the new grain varieties between 2003 and 2005, depending on the speed of regulatory agencies in the U.S. and Japan. The company intends to work on consumer acceptance of their product between now and then, and it will consider developing a closed distribution network to prevent it from coming in contact with conventional wheat crops.
|CNN.com/Health, 19 February 2001.
Nervous farmers want curbs on biotech wheat
A recent expedition into the African rain forests to locate specimens of an elusive species of primate has come up empty, prompting the species known as Miss Waldron's red colobus to be declared extinct. Although official declarations of extinction require 25 years without detection to take effect, this particular case is seen as significant because it is the first primate to disappear in the last 300 years. Scientists say that this event may mark the beginning of a series of African extinctions that threaten biodiversity worldwide. Primate losses are especially threatening since, as our nearest relatives in the animal world, they can be of great use in scientific research into human evolution and ancestry.
At the same time that a single primate species is lost, however, numerous additional primate species are being documented. For example, eleven new species were recently discovered in Africa, and the Miss Waldron's red colobus is the only loss of the many primate species considered to be endangered. The primary dangers facing primate populations include habitat loss, poaching, and environmental disturbance due to human population movements. However, given the desperate poverty of the region, extinctions due to overhunting are difficult to prevent.
|Parade, The Providence Journal, 4 February 2001.
"A Monkey Disappears - Forever"
Lyric Wallwork Winik
See also http://www.conservation.org
Scientists recently demonstrated that simple organic molecules exposed to conditions regularly encountered in space spontaneously form structures that resemble cell membranes. The study shows that the evolution of life on Earth may have been jump-started by organic processes on asteroids, comets, and other space debris. When these objects collided with the Earth, they could have introduced their organic cargo to the Earth's environment, thus providing a relatively simple mechanism for the origin of life. If these processes are as common as they currently appear, the discovery may also boost the likelihood of life having evolved on other planets besides Earth.
|The Providence Journal, 30 January 2001.
"Scientists trace origin of like on Earth to space"
Originally written for the Washington Post.
Two recent studies into human origins, performed by U.S. and Australian researchers, cast some doubt on the traditional theory that modern humans evolved in Africa and migrated throughout the rest of the world, displacing other hominid populations as they went. The first study, conducted by an Australian research team, suggested that a skeleton found in Australia is genetically distinct from African lineages. They argue that this finding indicates an Australian origin for the first modern humans. The second study examined early human skulls and concluded that Homo sapiens populations interbred with Neanderthals and even Homo erectus.
The scientists who conducted these studies all belong to the "multiregionalist" school of thought regarding human origins: they reject the idea that a single band of modern humans swept out of Africa and displaced older populations. Instead, they argue that humans evolved all over the world at approximately the same time, interbreeding with other hominid populations. The authors of the studies believe that their findings disprove the out-of-Africa hypothesis, but other scientists disagree, stating that they still believe that a single African lineage was the ancestor of all modern humans.
|Yahoo News, 14 January 2001.
Claims of Neanderthal-Human Mixing Leave Some Cold
Kennewick Man, the common name for a 9300-year-old fossilized human skeleton discovered in Kennewick, Washington, is one of the most famous and controversial fossils in American history. Discovered in 1996, the skeleton could reveal clues as to the origins of human habitation in North America. It could be an important piece of a puzzle that includes sifting through a variety of different theories of migration. One idea says the earliest humans migrated from across a land bridge connecting Russia to Alaska; another says that island-hoppers traveling across the Pacific by boat strayed off course and arrived in North America.
Eight scientists are now suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for burying the Kennewick site beneath 500 tons of soil and rock. The corps claims it was attempting to preserve the site from looters, while the scientists argue that burial artifacts may have been ruined. The suit also contests the corps' decision to turn the skeleton over to American Indian tribes who claimed the bones as the skeleton of their ancestor and tried to block scientific study of the bones on the basis that it would violate their religious beliefs. The skeleton is currently located at a museum in Seattle, where it will remain until the outcome of the litigation.
|MSNBC, 3 January 2001.
Crying foul over Kennewick Man site
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently released new guidelines for biotechnology companies seeking to obtain patents for genes or portions of genes. The new regulations, which made little change from the "interim" rules previously in effect, stipulated "substantial" real-world applications for the gene in order for a patent application to be successful. The rules mean that simply discovering or isolating a gene is not enough to secure a patent on it, and that uses cannot simply be fudged or vaguely described. The new regulations put a definitive end to the practice of discovering and patenting genes without knowing what they do, what protein they code for, or what role they play in the development of an organism.
The new regulations also rejected arguments against the concept of patenting genes on the basis that they are a part of nature and therefore do not represent novel innovations on the part of the patentholder. Under the new rules, patents will be issued regardless of whether the gene is an invention or a discovery of the company. Arguments that patenting genes violate the rights of people whose bodies contained the patented gene were also dismissed.
|MSNBC, 5 January 2001.
New gene patent guidelines issued
A recent study carried out by Swedish and German researchers compared sequences of mitochondrial DNA from people around the world in an attempt to ascertain the ultimate origin of the species Homo sapiens. Comparing samples taken from people of a wide variety of modern nationalities and ethnic groups, the researchers found that the sequences of native modern Africans are much more variable than other modern groups, thus indicating that the African lineage is older and has been evolving for a longer period of time.
The researchers then analyzed chimpanzee DNA to establish an approximate mutation rate, and used this result to calculate the approximate time of the human exodus out of Africa and into other areas of the world. They found a date of about 50,000 years ago, whereas older out-of-Africa studies have shown dates of 100,000 years ago.
The results are significant in two major ways: first, they indicate that it may have taken appreciably less time for humans to spread across the planet than was previously thought. The later date of departure from Africa indicates that humans populated the globe in a relatively short time span. Second, the results provide additional evidence supporting the idea that humans evolved only once, in Africa, then spread over the world with little interbreeding with other hominid species. The rival model of human origins has modern humans evolving in several different areas contemporaneously, and interbreeding to an extent with other populations.
|MSNBC, 6 December 2000.
A boost for theory on human origins
by Jeff Donn, Associated Press.
In the November 2000 issue of Scientific American magazine, a multi-article special report appears regarding the future of digital entertainment. Since entertainment is one of the best meme-spreading venues in modern culture, the predictions made could have a major effect on the future of memetic transmission.
The articles' authors all agree: digital entertainment will depend on the Internet, one of the best communications media - and therefore one of the best meme transmitters - in human history. According to this report, formerly discrete entertainment media such as music, movies, TV, and games will converge into a single dynamic conglomeration. Moreover, as Internet connections become faster, the sheer volume of memes available will multiply exponentially. Among the specific predictions made in the series are: the disappearance of times broadcasts in favor of user selections; drastic changes in advertising, new intellectual-property protection paradigms in response to problems like the MP3-Napster controversy; and ever-improving interactivity allowing users to influence outcomes.
The implications of all this from a memetic perspective are astounding. For the first time, a vast array of diverse memes will be widely and easily available to anyone with an Internet connection. Not only will more people be on the receiving end, but media convergence will probably bring costs of movie and music production down far enough that relatively small investments will allow almost anyone to spread large numbers of novel memes.
The Massachusetts biotechnology company Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) has ambitious plans for the future of cloning for conservation. Scientists from ACT, the same company involved in the effort to clone a gaur (see below), have met with many successes in interspecies embryo transfers. They also hope to negotiate an agreement with the Chinese government regarding the cloning of a giant panda, whose natural habitat is the bamboo forests of China.
The scientists recently published an article describing the future plans of conservational cloning in the November issue of the magazine Scientific American. While they say that Jurassic Park is close to impossible, they do identify a number of endangered species who are prime candidates for cloning: the cheetah, the bongo, the ocelot, the bucardo, and of course the giant panda.
Scientists recently unearthed salt crystals containing bacterial spores dating back 250 million years, which corresponds to the end of the Paleozoic Era. The bacteria have been successfully revived from spore form, thus shattering the previous record held by 25-30 million-year-old spores trapped in the gut of a bee preserved in amber. Indeed, this finding even predates the dinosaurs whose revival was the central plot element of the popular book and movie Jurassic Park.
The bacteria have been identified as ancient relatives of the present-day Bacillus, an extremely common type of bacteria now found in water, dust particles, and dirt. The ancient bacteria will help evolutionary biologists determine how fast mutations occur in this bacterial group. Furthermore, the bacteria could provide essential information regarding the mass extinctions taking place around the time of the end of the Paleozoic, when up to 95% of all marine species became extinct.
Scientists have done radioactive dating experiments on the rock formation surrounding the sample site, and are confident their analysis of the bacteria's age is correct. They do not believe contamination or seepage from newer formations have affected their results. Moreover, the bacteria are closely related to harmless modern-day bacteria and do not pose a health threat.
|MSNBC, 18 October 2000.
Bacteria brought back to life after 250 million years
by Matthew Fordahl, Associated Press.
A deadly virus called Ebola has stricken at least 100 people in a village of the African nation Uganda. Forty-one of these people have died, and health officials believe that the deadly virus is spreading into neighboring villages as well. The first documented outbreaks of the virus both took place in 1976, in Sudan and Zaire (now Congo). Since then, 793 lives have been claimed by the virus, out of about 1100 known cases.
The Ebola virus comes in three different forms: Ebola Zaire, the most lethal of the three; Ebola Sudan, the strain identified as responsible for the Uganda outbreak; and Ebola Reston, which is not documented as dangerous to humans. Periodic outbreaks of the Zaire and Sudan strains have repeatedly occurred in the African rain forest; the Uganda outbreak is the first in brush areas such as those surrounding the village.
Ebola, like all viruses, relies on transmission from one host to another in order to survive and replicate. In humans, it is a poor replicator because it can only be transmitted through contact with body fluids and kills its victims too quickly to spread efficiently. However, scientists are still searching for the virus' natural host, an animal which will probably show few to no symptoms of the virus. This animal's immune system has reached a stalemate in its arms race against the viral infection.
|MSNBC, 19 October 2000.
Ebola outbreak wracks Uganda
by Stefan Lovgren, MSNBC.
Replicators: Evolutionary Powerhouses has been named a finalist for ThinkQuest 2000! The site was one of 24 sites chosen out of a total of 740 entries this year. The team will be traveling to the Awards Event to be held in an unannounced location to participate in the final rounds of the judging process. This is a great honor, and we are very proud of the work we have done. We would also like to thank you, our visitors, for helping us make the site a success!
Click here to see the other ThinkQuest 2000 finalists, or click here to visit the ThinkQuest website.
Update: The ThinkQuest Awards Event will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, 17-19 March. Congratulations to all 2000 finalists - we'll see you there!
Scientists are making history in a number of ways by cloning a gaur, an endganered animal native to India. This effort, led by Massachusetts scientists from Advanced Cell Technology, marks the first time an endangered species has been cloned. It is also the first attempt to clone an animal by gestating it in the womb of another species - in this case, a close relative - an ordinary domestic cow in Iowa. The baby gaur, named Noah by the scientists, is due in late November.
Successfully cloning Noah wasn't an easy process. Scientists saved 692 skin cells from a male gaur and fused them with cow egg cells to form embryos possessing the same genome as the original gaur. Of those 692, 81 embryos grew large enough to be implanted in a total of 32 domestic cows. Eight of the cows successfully became pregnant; scientists removed two of the fetuses for analysis (both were normal). Five of the remaining cows miscarried, leaving Noah and his "mom", Bessie, the sole survivors of the procedure.
A similar effort is already being planned to clone the cells of a Spanish mountain goat. The last known member of the species died recently, and scientists plan to clone her; this will be the first time a species has been saved from extinction by cloning. Moreover, scientists have plans to add male genes by "borrowing" from a related species, allowing a breeding population of goats to be cloned. Efforts with panda bears and even frozen woolly mammoth DNA are being contemplated.
|MSNBC, 8 October 2000.
Cloning to save an imperiled species
by Rick Weiss, Washington Post.
Artist Eduardo Kac attempted to create a truly unique performance-art piece: "GFP Bunny," a transgenic rabbit named Alba whose cells glow green under ultraviolet light. Kac had French scientists insert the gene for a fluorescent protein into a rabbit embryo, which has since developed into Alba, an albino bunny Kac thinks of as artwork. However, the performance-art piece has ignited a contrversy over the line between appropriate and inappropriate uses of genetic engineering. The rabbit currently remains in the laboratory where she was created while Kac fights for the right to bring her home.
Ethicists and laypeople alike have reacted with distaste toward Kac's project, claiming that art is not reason enough to manipulate the genome of a complex animal. Some have also expressed concerns about the gene's potential for being transferred to other rabbits if Alba were allowed to mate. It is unknown if the gene is recessive or dominant, or even if it would be transferred to Alba's offspring. No serious side effects have yet been observed.
Kac's previous pieces also revolve around the theme of modern technology: his "Pingbirds" is a set of robotic reproductions of Amazonian birds that chirp whenever someone enters a particular Web site. For another piece, called "Genesis," Kac translated a sentence from the Old Testament into the genome of bacteria; UV light shines on the bacteria to mutate the sentence whenever people access a certain website. Click here to visit Eduardo Kac's website and find links to both Pingbirds and Genesis.
|MSNBC, 28 September 2000.
Artist seeks to free glowing rabbit
by Andrew Stern for Reuters.
A report released by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation evaluated 49 states and the District of Columbia on their standards for teaching evolutionary theory in public schools. The report found that 19 states have unsatisfactory or worse standards for the teaching of evolution in schools. Of those 19, six were given a grade of D and 13 flunked outright. The lowest grade went to Kansas, the state whose Board of Education attempted to adopt standards that deemphasized evolution and omitted the Big Bang theory of the universe's origins. Six states received the highest possible rank, and four more were given A's. Fourteen states got B's, seven received C's, and Iowa, which does not have statewide education standards, was omitted from the survey.
The report is yet another facet of the ongoing evolution/creation debate in America. Since a large percentage of Americans believe in Biblical creationism or "guided" evolution, many people want the Biblical explanation of human origins taught alongside evolution in science classes. However, many scientists and educators recognize creationism as essentially religious dogma and are continuing in the fight to exlcude such material from schools. The courts have also repeatedly struck down pro-creationist legislation as a violation of the separation of church and state.
|MSNBC, 26 September 2000.
Debating the Grades on Evolution
by Paul Recer for Associated Press.
In the October 2000 issue of Scientific American, a fascinating article appears on the concept of memes. The main article, written by Susan Blackmore, is mainly a highly condensed version of her book The Meme Machine. The magazine also prints three brief rebuttals of various elements of Blackmore's argument for the existence of memes.
Blackmore's article, titled "The Power of Memes", is an excellent introduction to the concept and influence of memes. Blackmore's writing is lucid and to-the-point, and covers all the major topics associated with memetics. The rebuttals were mildly disappointing to those already infected by the meme meme. The first argues that memes cannot fully explain the phenomenon of human culture because some animals have powers of imitation and thus can possess memes - a point addressed by Blackmore on the very next page. The second rebuttal states that "cultural evolution cannot be explained in terms of natural selection alone" (p.71), but tries to give an example of memetic evolution to prove the point. The third takes issue with Blackmore's definition and description of imitation, arguing that we do not learn about abstract concepts by imitating others: "we cannot and do not imitate justice" (p.72). However, the author misses the possibility that we might acquire such a concept through imitation of those who already possess the relevant meme(s).
Overall, the article is an interesting one, sure to spawn more copies of the meme meme as readers encounter it. And criticisms - even flawed ones - are always helpful to the development and refinement of a theory.
Scientists from Brandeis University have recently created a robotic system that successfully designs and builds other robots. Software simulated the process of natural selection using the concept of "capable of moving along a flat surface" as a definition of fitness. After hundreds of generations, it successfully "evolved" a design adapted to moving across the top of a table. The software then delivered its plan to an automated robot which constructed the tiny plastic robots, which had bodies of plastic and nervous systems of wire.
Once they had been successfully fabricated, the tiny plastic robots began to crawl slowly across the table. The event marks the first time in history that artificial systems have successfully designed and built other artificial systems. These first steps could lead to other, more complicated systems being evolved and built by "evolutionary" software. For example, building a robot to dust the house or devising an optimal travel itinerary may soon be a matter of entering the initial conditions into such evolutionary software and waiting for natural selection to work its magic.
|Providence Journal, 13 August 2000.
"Brave new world: Robots create themselves"
by Curt Sulpee for the Washington Post.
See also The Golem Project