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Comment Here's the revelant bit: (Score 3, Interesting) 64

That repertoire turns out to be more intriguing than Thompson could
have imagined. Although the configuration program specified tasks for
all 100 cells, it transpired that only 32 were essential to the
circuit's operation. Thompson could bypass the other cells without
affecting it. A further five cells appeared to serve no logical
purpose at all--there was no route of connections by which they could
influence the output. And yet if he disconnected them, the circuit
stopped working.

It appears that evolution made use of some physical property of these
cells--possibly a capacitive effect or electromagnetic inductance--to
influence a signal passing nearby. Somehow, it seized on this subtle
effect and incorporated it into the solution.


Another challenge is to make the circuit work over a wide temperature
range. On this score, the human digital scheme proves its
worth. Conventional microprocessors typically work between -20 0C and
80 0C. Human designers set the clock so that chip components have
enough time to settle into a digital value. As many computer hackers
know, they can turn up the clock speed if they keep the temperature of
the microprocessor low because the transistors settle into their on or
off states more quickly when cold.

Thompson's evolved circuit only works over a 10 0C range--the
temperature range in the laboratory during the experiment. This is
probably because the temperature changes the capacitance, resistance
or some other property of the circuit's components. Whatever the
cause, this is a serious drawback. If the circuit needs a temperature
controller to enable it to operate, then it is no longer a cheap,
low-power device. But evolution could come to the rescue here as well.
In a future genetic algorithm, Thompson plans to score circuits not
only on how well they perform an electronic task, but also on how well
they cope with temperature variation. Evolution might, for example,
create a design that includes a set of subcircuits each of which
operates over a different temperature range. If this fails to solve
the problem, Thompson will try giving the FPGA a clock. But he won't
tell the circuit what to do with it. "It will be a resource--we'll see
what use evolution makes of it," he says.

Comment Re:There was less junk DNA around back then (Score 1) 64

Junk DNA is basically this:

We are very complex machines with LOTS of unexpected connections. Take out one little bit of "junk" DNA, the whole thing collapses because of the utterly bizarre inter-dependencies that have evolved over millions of years.

Comment Re:News for nerds? (Score 1) 87

We may all be survivalists someday.

Fuck that. That's the reason I have a gun.

Not to take food from other people and become a warlord, but to off myself if civilization falls apart. No desire to star in a real life version of "The Road", thank you very much!

Comment Re:Easy... (Score 1) 1121

I don't have the hubris to think that my uninformed whims and impulses are the best possible moral decisions anyone could make. So it's useful to have a handbook, even a set of fairy tales as you put it, to put things in perspective.

So any handbook will do? If I wrote a handbook today, and gave it to you, would that be just as good as the Bible?

Why do you believe people from 2000 years ago had a better handle on morality than modern people do?

Comment Re:Where is Wireless Charging? (Score 1) 619

No fumbling with cords or trying to align it just right in the dock.

As soon as I read this, imagining one of those crappy infomercials with a lady (in black and white, of course) hopelessly fumbling with a USB cable while trying to plug in a phone, then she looks at the camera with a "there's got to be a better way" expression.

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What we anticipate seldom occurs; what we least expect generally happens. -- Bengamin Disraeli