What is ‘Artificial life’?

Listening to the Biota live podcast I believe I’ve finally found the term for what I’ve been researching for years. It’s typical that now it seems so obvious. ‘Artificial life’ or alife is such an obviuos term but I think I was getting it confused with artificial intelligence which is part of but not exactly what drives me.

So as I develop this post I want to investigate

  1. what exactly is artificial life?
  2. what projects are out there?
  3. how the current work can be applied to projects and solutions I want to work on. 

What is artificial life?

Reading the wikipedia definition I’ve first learnt that alife has a bottom up approach to investigation. I generally like to do both bottom up and top down at the same time. I know that I really want to create some very basic applications to mimic life processes such as the krebs cycle and photosynthesis. Then combine these processes into a larger organism. I’m likely to start building a very basic cell, and then try and get two or more cells working together in symbiosis. That’s a long way off, but I want to see how these two main philosophies can enhance my learning.

I’ve just been talking to a friend. I wonder how much this work overlaps with computational biology. Following that thread also lead me to Computational Biomodelling and the Cellular model.

There are plenty of projects around artificial life. I won’t list them all hear. I’ll just list those that I hear about and interest me.

  • Breve: I heard this is a tool that can be used for education. You can create your own life forms and see how they interact. 

Bio Informatics
The study of bio informatics relates to artificial life because it is concerned with getting information out of living systems. Useful tools I have found include those which help visualise any molecule, Databases of collected information. Some of these databases appear to be web based so the potential to pull this info in to analyse may be there.

I’ve also found a list of terms related to this area. A bit in depth at the mo but gives specific terms and phrases to search on. 

I also came across Spine(Signal Processing in node environment). It’s very niche now but shows that the concept of distributed network architecture revolving around the body is gaining ground. Specknet is a similiar idea

I just Stephen Guerin speaking on the biota live podcast #59 about his work on simulating the krebs cycle, use of energy and related items. these are the aspects of artificial life I’m most interested in so I checked out his company redfish and found his bio. Their projects so far sound fascinating. Definitely seems like one to watch.

A key part of articifial life is how well it describes the actual process of life that it portrays. Protein dynamics is fundamental to this and apparently our knowledge is maturing as we speak http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=09121213-reaching-the-summit-protein-dynamics

update 20091215
Check out what you can do with genetic algorithms, Javascript and HTML 5 canvas, assuming you’re running Google Chrome that is. There are tons more chrome experiments but this impressed me with the use of genetic algorithmns in a web browser.

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