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.

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