When Life Looks Alien

After the break you will find two videos about the amazing, and strikingly alien life which is all around us. From the protists and microscopic life of Clemens Wirth’s ‘Micro Empire’ – to the strange world of praying mantises shown in Cokau’s ‘Prie Dieu’. These are just some of the alien worlds all around us.

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Darwin Tunes: Evolving Music

Darwin Tunes isn’t new, its been around since 2009 – but its been steadily growing in popularity. Darwin Tunes is based on a simple premise – can we evolve music? In order to do this they use an evolutionary algorithm which uses human ratings as a means to judge short sound clips. Higher rated sound clips get to breed and effect the next generation, while unappealing clips die and are excluded from breeding. The awesome thing about the project is that it works – and quite well. It won’t be competing with human artists yet, but its very clearly music.  Evolutionary algorithms hold great promise for design in general, but their application in areas such as aestheticism is currently under-explored – Darwin Tunes is making great progress in fixing that.

Check out Darwin Tunes to hear some of their clips and get involved yourself! You can also read their recent PNAS paper here.

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Building Artificial Neurons

Taking us one step closer to cybernetic brains, a research group has been able to create an artificial synapse (the connections between neurons in our brains). This device should be able to mimic the major features of human memory and can be interfaced with natural neurons. This leads to the possibility of cyborg/augmented brains which contains both natural and electronic parts. Alternatively it could eventually be used for the long coveted ideal of brain uploading. Read more at Machines Like Us.

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Curiosity Lands on Mars! Synthetic Biology Implications

The Mars Space Laboratory (MSL), otherwise known as Curiosity – is a large car-sized rover, which today successfully landed on mars. To have landed was a monumental task and an amazing achievement. The picture above is the second one we received from the craft, showing its shadow on Mars – confirming its successful landing. Now the rover is ready to begin its long mission to find out a huge number of things about Mars, including looking for signs of life.

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Entire Cell Simulated For First Time

The overarching goal of systems biology is to understand how all of the individual small molecules which make up cells (and thus organisms) work together to create the an overall phenotype. A huge step forward in this field has come with the first “entire cell” simulation – a program which predicts the phenotype of a cell in different internal states. This work was done by a collaboration between scientists at Stanford University and the J. Craig Venter Institute. This initial simulation is for one of the simplest cells possible – but it is nonetheless a huge step towards the goals of systems biology made possible by rapidly improving computer speeds.

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