Friday, November 28, 2014
With 100 billion neurons and 37 trillion cells, the human body is simply too complex to be artificially designed by modern computers.
But in the quest to create artificial life, what if we started a lot smaller? That’s what team of scientists has done, creating a replica of the simplest form of life we know.
The worm Caenorhabditis elegans has just 300 neurons and around 1,000 cells - and now a robot has been created that mimics the actions of this simple organism.
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The OpenWorm team from California is making a 'digital' worm. Their project is recreating the neurons and cells in C. elegans, the simplest organism we know of. By making a digital worm the team hope to create artificial life. They have implanted the digital 'mind' of the worm into a Lego machine (shown)
The OpenWorm project, a global effort including researchers from the US and UK, is attempting to create the world’s first digital animal.
Earlier this year they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a worm you can download onto your computer.
And they have also created a robot that mimics the actions of a real-life worm.
C. elegans is one of the simplest forms of life we know, thanks to its limited neurons and cells, and thus researchers have been able to accurately map its body.
The worm, though simple, contains 80 per cent of the same genes as humans and can be studied as a more basic version of complex life.
With a brain, stomach and bodily functions, the worm has provided scientists with a way to study life on a much smaller and more manageable scale.
In this latest project the researchers mapped the entire physiology of a C. elegans organism.
They then recreated the worm’s brain, cells and more in digital form, complete with neurons ‘firing’ to make decisions.
Scientists re-create worm brain with Lego machine
Earlier this year the OpenWorm project ran a successful digital campaign to fund their digital worm (shown). Next year people will be able to buy and download their own worm for use on computers. The artificial creature accurately recreates the cells and neurons in a real C. elegans worm
The ultimate goal of the project is to give people access to their own digital worm called WormSim to study on their computers through the OpenWorm project.
Following the successful Kickstarter campaign, this should be available next year.
But they have also inserted the artificial brain of the worm into a Lego machine, specifically a Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot.
By recreating the 302 neurons and 959 cells of this tiny nematode worm, the robot can then be left to ‘mimic’ the actions of a real-life worm.
This means it moves around, runs into obstacles like walls and also turns.
The robot is very basic for now, and does not possess the ability to perform more complex functions such as eating.
It’s an important step, though, to creating artificial life that can think for itself.
While this worm is a very basic form of life, it may be a precursor to making much more complex animals.
This will be a huge undertaking, though - even a mouse has 22 million neurons in its brain.
‘The mere act of trying to put a working model together causes us to realise what we know and what we don't know,’ John Long, a roboticist and neuroscientist at Vassar College in New York State, told New Scientist.
The Caenorhabditis elegans nematode (scanning electron microscope image shown) is only around 0.04 inches (1mm) in length, is transparent and feeds on bacteria, such as E. coli. The worm has been the focus of huge amounts of research and was the first multi-celled organism to have its entire genome mapped
Creating an aritifical brain (stock image left) is viewed as being the first step to creating artificial intelligence. Some experts even believe that the key to one day inhabiting far away planets is to get rid of the body altogether, such as how cartoon villain Krang (right), from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, did
Credit to DAILYMAIL.CO.UK
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2851663/Are-brink-creating-artificial-life-Scientists-digitise-brain-WORM-place-inside-robot.html#ixzz3KOWtcdpz