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Roundworms star in OpenWorm, an artificial life simulator

Cassandra Khaw | May 8, 2013
How do you design life? By building it from ground-up, of course. OpenWorm is an attempt to do exactly that.

When we're all one day replaced by perfect, digital versions of ourselves, this is what historians are going to point to as the start of the fall of mankind--an artificial roundworm simulator that can can feed itself, find a mate, and avoid predators.

Obligatory doomsaying aside, OpenWorm is a rather rad idea. The project is an open source, collaborative attempt to create a digital version of the microscopic Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) using a Java-based simulation.

While software simulations of organisms aren't unheard of, this is likely the first time anyone has built a virtual creature from the ground-up. What this means is that just like in real life, OpenWorm is all about building the cells first and moving on from there. It's like simulating individual molecules of water to simulate a wave. More or less.

The whole shebang is both a fabulous and mildly disconcerting concept to ponder: Should OpenWorm work out as advertised, the digital critter may be capable of very real--if primitive--autonomy. Can you picture where this could possibly lead to? Because I can.

Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), it looks like the project has just gotten out of the door. We'll probably have to wait a good long while before we see the final results of the OpenWorm project. But if you're a part of the world's supply of programmers, artists, writers, scientists or what-have-yous and want to help OpenWorm, don't hesitate to lend a hand.

 

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