Artificial life in Southampton

Southampton University’s Science and Engineering of Natural Systems (SENSe) group is set to host the international Artificial Life XI conference in August.

The newly-formed SENSe group, one of the leading Alife groups in the UK and Europe, is exploring the use of biological organisation in managing large-scale computing systems. It has also developed a new type of biochip encapsulating a slime mould cell.

ALIFE XI will provide an opportunity for biologists, computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, social scientists and technologists to get together to exchange ideas and results.

Keynote speakers include experts in the field such as Prof Stuart Kauffman, author of The Origins of Order, Prof Peter Schuster, who developed the quasi-species model and the hypercycle concept, Prof Eva Jablonka, author of Evolution in Four Dimensions, and Prof Andrew Ellington, a synthetic biology pioneer. Topics such as artificial cells, simulating massive biological networks, exploiting biological substrates for computation and control, and deploying bio-inspired engineering will be addressed.

‘Our challenge is to understand the organisation of living systems via a combination of simulating existing life and building new life,’ said Dr Seth Bullock from SENSe, one of the conference organisers. ‘Until recently, the term ‘artificial life’ referred almost exclusively to computer programs, or maybe robots, but the progress being made by synthetic biologists building real cells out of real biological material means that the field is on the cusp of a major step forward, and that this conference has the potential to be a real breakthrough event’.