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Conference to make Artificial Life a reality

Published: 23 January 2008

As scientists get closer to engineering new forms of life in test tubes, the University of Southampton is set to host an international conference on Artificial Life (Alife) that it believes will reveal major breakthroughs.

The Artificial Life XI conference, which will be held in Europe for the first time ever this August, will be hosted by the Science and Engineering of Natural Systems (SENSe) group within the University's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS).

'It is a great honour for us to host this event which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year,' said Dr Seth Bullock from SENSe, one of the conference organisers. 'The field is on the verge of synthesising living cells, a feat that the Artificial Life community could only dream of when it first started out in the late 80s.'

The newly-formed SENSe group, one of the leading Alife groups in the UK and Europe, is already exploring the use of biological organisation in managing large-scale computing systems and has also developed a new type of biochip encapsulating a slime mould cell.

ALIFE XI will provide an opportunity for biologists, computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, social scientists and technologists to get together to exchange ideas and results.

Keynote speakers include internationally leading experts such as Professor Stuart Kauffman, author of The Origins of Order; Professor Peter Schuster, the inventor with Manfred Eigen, of the quasi-species model and the hypercycle concept; Professor Eva Jablonka, author of Evolution in Four Dimensions (with Marion Lamb), and Professor Andrew Ellington, a leading pioneer in the new science of synthetic biology. Topics such as artificial cells, simulating massive biological networks, exploiting biological substrates for computation and control, and deploying bio-inspired engineering, will all be addressed.

'Our challenge is to understand the organisation of living systems via a combination of simulating existing life and building new life,' said Dr Bullock. 'Until recently, the term "artificial life" referred almost exclusively to computer programs, or maybe robots, but the progress being made by synthetic biologists building real cells out of real biological material means that the field is on the cusp of a major step forward, and that this conference has the potential to be a real breakthrough event.'

For further information and registration, please visit: http://www.alifexi.org/

Notes for editors

  • For further information on the conference, please visit: http://www.alifexi.org

  • For further information about Dr Seth Bullock, please visit: http://www.ecs.soton.ac.uk/people/sgb

  • For information about SENSe, please visit: http://www.sense.ecs.soton.ac.uk/

  • With around 500 researchers, and 900 undergraduate students, the School of Electronics and Computer Science at Southampton is one of the world's largest and most successful integrated research groupings, covering Computer Science, Software Engineering, Electronics, and Electrical Engineering. ECS has unrivalled depth and breadth of expertise in world-leading research, new developments and their applications.

  • The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. It is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. The University has around 20,000 students and over 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £310 million.

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