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Artificial Life

Winter 2003, Vol. 9, No. 1, Pages 21-40
(doi: 10.1162/106454603321489509)
© 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Self-Replicating Machines in Continuous Space with Virtual Physics
Article PDF (6.89 MB)

JohnnyVon is an implementation of self-replicating machines in continuous two-dimensional space. Two types of particles drift about in a virtual liquid. The particles are automata with discrete internal states but continuous external relationships. Their internal states are governed by finite state machines, but their external relationships are governed by a simulated physics that includes Brownian motion, viscosity, and springlike attractive and repulsive forces. The particles can be assembled into patterns that can encode arbitrary strings of bits. We demonstrate that, if an arbitrary seed pattern is put in a soup of separate individual particles, the pattern will replicate by assembling the individual particles into copies of itself. We also show that, given sufficient time, a soup of separate individual particles will eventually spontaneously form self-replicating patterns. We discuss the implications of JohnnyVon for research in nanotechnology, theoretical biology, and artificial life.