Thursday, June 28, 2007

Event in Manchester

If you're in Manchester next Monday and are stuck for something to do in the evening, why not pop along to Cafe Scientifique, where I'll be speaking and (hopefully) generating some discussion? The format is pretty relaxed, with a 30-40 minute presentation from me, followed by a 15 minute break for refreshments, then an open-ended discussion session.

Genesis Machines: Engineering Life

Monday 2nd July 2007 at 6:30pm in Cafe Muse (directions are here).

Although anticipated as early as the 1950s, the idea that we could somehow build working computers from organic components was merely a theoretical notion until November 1994, when a scientist announced that he had built the world's first molecular computer. Emerging from a laboratory in Los Angeles, California, his collection of test tubes, gels and DNA lay at the heart of a totally new and unexplored region of the scientific landscape.

Millions of dollars are now being invested worldwide in molecular computing and synthetic biology research. DNA, the code of life, is right now being used at the heart of experimental computers. Living cells are being integrated with silicon nanotubes to create hybrid machines, as well as being routinely manipulated to add entirely new capabilities. Preparations are being made to build entirely new organisms, never seen before in nature.

This research raises amazing new questions. Does nature 'compute', and, if so, how? Can natural systems inspire entirely new ways of doing computation? How can humanity benefit from this potentially revolutionary new technology? What are the dangers? Could building computers with living components put us at risk from our own creations? What are the ethical implications of tinkering with nature's circuits? In this event we'll examine what it means to reprogram the logic of life.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Two things

Apologies for the lack of recent activity on the blog; this time of year is always the busiest for academics, what with exam boards and so on. Hopefully things will calm down in the next week or two.

Two items of note: today marks both the publication of Genesis Machines in paperback, and the release of the programme for this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Not much has changed in the paperback, apart from a few additional acknowledgements and some minor changes to the notes and references (which are available online here.)

As for the Book Festival, I'm privileged to be appearing on stage once again with Oliver Morton from Nature, where we'll be discussing "The Future of Nature" as part of the "Genes and Society" Festival theme. Oliver will be talking about "intelligent plants", and I'll be holding forth on biocomputing and synthetic biology (Craig Venter's recent patent swoop has given me lots of nice new discussion material). Anyway, we're appearing on Sunday the 26th of August, and full programme details are available here. The event is sponsored by the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, and it's one of five that they are supporting.