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Artificial Life conference makes first visit to UK

Published: 17 July 2008

This year's International Conference on Artificial Life (ALIFE XI) will be held in Europe for the first time ever from 5 to 8 August.

The newly-formed Science and Engineering of Natural Systems (SENSe) group within the University of Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) is to host the event, which will take place at the University of Winchester West Downs Campus, involving 250 participants and more paper presentations than ever before.

"This is a critical time for Artificial Life," explains Dr Seth Bullock of ECS, the conference chair. "The field is on the verge of synthesising living cells, a feat that the Artificial Life community could only dream of when it started out in the late 80s."

This year's conference has switched to a multi-track format, which has enabled almost 150 extra presentations. It has attracted hundreds of biologists, computer scientists, physicists, mathematicians, philosophers, social scientists and technologists from around the world, who will be hearing some of the latest research findings from areas such as artificial cells, the simulation of massive biological networks and exploiting biological phenomena such as slime moulds for computation and control.

Keynote speakers include internationally leading experts such as Professor Stuart Kauffman, author of The Origins of Order, Professor Peter Schuster, editor-in-chief of the journal Complexity, 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.

Professor Takashi Ikegami from the University of Tokyo will open the conference, speaking on work spanning self-organisation and autopoiesis in systems of birds, robots, children, flies, cells, and even oil droplets. The conference is unified by a focus on understanding the fundamental behavioural dynamics of embedded, embodied, evolving and adaptive systems.

"Alife is continuing to put new ideas into the common consciousness of scientists," says Dr Bullock. "It acts as a melting pot for rarefied specialist fields to come together to talk and learn from each other. This type of interdisciplinary exchange is critical to the development of scientists equipped for current challenges in understanding and managing complex adaptive systems such as ecologies, climate, the economy and the web. We at ECS are addressing this need through the development of new post-graduate training programmes and the creation of a new Chair in Biological Computing. I'm sure that hosting ALIFE XI at this stage will be a real shot in the arm for UK Alife research."

One of the conference presentations will describe a new program for automatically identifying spam emails that is inspired by the human immune system; another uses the techniques of artificial life to model the development of consciousness as a by-product of the way that various modules of the brain needed to communicate with each other. An experiment with robots will also be described in which they self-assemble into larger, more complex forms, where the individual units assigned roles to themselves dynamically without recourse to a top-level plan or blueprint.

The world's least expensive robots will also be demonstrated during the conference; constructed by undergraduate engineering students at the University of Southampton, the tiny robots learn from each other and work together as a swarm.

A series of press events will be hosted during ALIFE XI. Further details will be available early next week.

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 leading 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 £350 million.

    The University is one of the country's top institutions for engineering, computer science and medicine, and has a strong enterprise agenda. It is home to a range of world-leading research centres, including the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, the Optoelectronics Research Centre, the Centre for the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, and the Mountbatten Centre for International Studies.

  • For further information and press registration at the conference, contact:

    Hélène Murphy, Media Relations Consultant to the School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Tel: 07944 847570, Email: hpmurphy@aol.com (away from 22-29 July).

    or

    Joyce Lewis, Communications Manager, School of Electronics and Computer Science, University of Southampton, Tel. 023 8059 5453; email j.k.lewis@ecs.soton.ac.uk

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