A digital simulation of natural selection, taking place in scores of internet-linked personal computers, is being used to evolve superior electronic circuits.
The calculations used to improve circuit design would normally be performed on a single powerful computer or a large cluster of machines. But Miguel Garvie, a research student at the University of Sussex in the UK, has developed software that lets ordinary computer users contribute their spare processing power to create a virtual evolutionary environment for the project.
Such "distributed computing" is already providing cheap but substantial computer power to the search for alien messages in radio signals from space and to the quest for the largest prime numbers.
In the five days since the project was launched, Garvie says he has evolved circuits that outperform commercial designs on standard tests by 100 per cent but are only 50 per cent larger.
"It's gone as far as conventional circuits and beyond," he told New Scientist. "The plan is to go with bigger and bigger circuits, which is why I started the distributed project." [more]
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