Is heading straight for a goal the quickest way there" If the name of the game is evolution, suggests new research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the pace might speed up if the goals themselves change continuously.
Nadav Kashtan, Elad Noor and Prof. Uri Alon of the Institute’s Molecular Cell Biology and Physics of Complex Systems Departments create computer simulations that mimic natural evolution, allowing them to investigate processes that, in nature, take place over millions of years. In these simulations, a population of digital genomes evolves over time towards a given goal: to maximize fitness under certain conditions. Like living organisms, genomes that are better adapted to their environment may survive to the next generation or reproduce more prolifically. But such computer simulations, though sophisticated, don’t yet have all the answers. Achieving even simple goals may take thousands of generations, raising the question of whether the three-or-so billion years since life first appeared on the planet is long enough to evolve the diversity and complexity that exist today,
Evolution takes place under changing environmental conditions, forcing organisms to continually readapt. Intuitively, this would slow things down even further, as successive generations must switch tack again and again in the struggle to survive. But when Kashtan, Noor and Alon created a simulation in which the goals changed repeatedly, they found that its evolution actually speeded up. They even found that the more complex the goal – i.e., the more generations needed reach it under fixed conditions – the faster evolution accelerated in response to changes in that goal.
Computerized evolution ran fastest, the scientists found, when the changes followed a pattern they believe may be pervasive in nature. In previous research, Kashtan and Alon had shown that evolution may often be modular – involving adjustments to standard parts, rather than wholesale remodeling. They theorized that the forces acting on evolution may be modular as well, and for each goal, they defined subgoals that could each change in relation to the others. 'In an organism, for example, you might classify these subgoals as the need to eat, the need to keep from being eaten, and the need to reproduce. The same subgoals must be fulfilled in each new environment, but there are differences in nuance and combination,' says Kashtan. 'We saw a large speedup, for instance, when we repeatedly exchanged an 'OR' for an 'AND' in the computer code defining our goals, thus changing the relationship between subgoals.'
Although the main aim of this research, which appeared recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was to shed light on theoretical questions of evolution, it may have some practical implications, particularly in engineering fields in which evolutionary tools are commonly used for systems design; and in computer science, by providing a possible way to accelerate optimization algorithms.
Yivsam Azgad | EurekAlert!
Fraunhofer FIT joins Facebook's Telecom Infra Project
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions
21.10.2016 | Stanford University
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences
27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences