James Zhang

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Could life forms be defined by a single algorithm?

I just watched Michael Hansmeyer's presentation on creating shapes algorithmically.

His works were all done by a single simple algorithm and simple starting-states, but they all end up to be infinitely complex in the shapes and effects. So my question is, could we also define our own shapes in a single algorithm, and what possibilities would this yield?

  • Aug 8 2012: My career was with computers and I often use 'thinking about computers' as a way of explaining other systematic phenomena. This one fits perfectly. One day I am sure we will unlock the secrets of DNA and build a computer algorithm that will use a genome as input and create a 3D computer model of an organism as the output. A DNA molecule is a data set. I think all life is defined by an algorithm.
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    Aug 7 2012: If anyone can ever explain to a mathematician how to create such an algorithm... It would be an artist. The best among them, seem almost prophetic in their understanding of human nature.

    "The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now -- with somebody -- and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

    It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy...

    We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

    This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed -- for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won't hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force."

    Hunter S Thompson, The morning of September 11th 2001.
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    Aug 5 2012: I watched the same video and went through the same thought process after seeing the similarities between the new medical scanners of top-down cadavers and the x-rays of the column. Perhaps an organic supercomputer creating algorithmic life was where we came from, or are we recreating naturally occurring events in nature.
    This would make sense, as I assume with the columns, you would take a simple shape, input an algorithm, and it would grow depending on how it reacts to the algorithm. So you would have a crazy range of output from large insane beasts, to the minute flobs of jelly, but that would mean something had to determine the changes in the "folding points" so that the algorithm could produce different results. That would support a creationist theory completely if it came to light. Cool thoughts!
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      Aug 5 2012: The "organic supercomputer" sounds just like a woman giving birth to a child or some form of reproduction. The starting-state would them be the embryo, that continually splits and reproduces. Then the algorithm could be that dna sequence that every cell in our body follows.

      But it's really interesting how we start from an embryo to a human form. Does it have anything to do with the structure of its starting state at all?
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        Aug 5 2012: The embryo/cell splitting is a really interesting point when you think about our different races, are there minute differences in our algorithms at the beginning stages, causing the small, but obvious, differences we have in our physical structure between races? (which kind of goes with your theory that the algorithm is stored in your DNA)
        That could also just be differences in geography and where we come from, but all in all, really got me thinking.
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          Aug 5 2012: Our dna also mutates over time depending on our environment.

          Mutation is caused by free radical electrons from the splitting of electron pairs in the dna. And there are a couple of things that can do this to us: radiation, and oxygen.

          We are constantly getting UV exposure, and we are constantly breathing. Of course nutrients can counteract this mutation by replacing the missing electrons with newer ones.
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          Aug 5 2012: But overall, there is definitely some kind of consistency among all human beings, that's really interesting to think about...
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    Aug 6 2012: people always seem so determined to reduce everything to a single, simple explanation. is this so it can be printed comfortably on a T-shirt..?
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      Aug 6 2012: maybe, I would probably get one lol

      I don't think it's that we're so determined. I think it's more than we're just curious if a human body can be described in one simple algorithm.
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    Aug 5 2012: The secret of Hansmeyer's collumn's beauty is that ugliness is selected out. The algorithm could easily be changed. But the process that creates beauty would need to be the same : selection.
    Similarly, the real cause of life's compexity is selection, not some initial programm.
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    Aug 5 2012: HI! I think human beings are infinately complex and wonderful so while I think we might eventually get to several algorithsm which might be somewhat safisfactory for basic predictions , i sincerely do not think we will ever get to the point where we can use an algorithm for individual behaviour. Who would think, for example that it is when I run out of lemons that I go to the grocery store?

    Addition; that last line probably makes no sense until I tell you that no matter what else i run out of never seem to go until i have no lemons.
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      Aug 5 2012: Hmm, maybe maybe not, we shall see...

      But I think we all do agree that there is some kind of consistency among all humans, or all life for that matter...
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        Aug 5 2012: I do not really think it is the ways that we are alike that perplex us. It is in those individual differences that we cannot predict or understand that we find life most curious.
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          Aug 5 2012: Hmm, you're right, but I think it is because of both the similarities and differences that perplex us. Why are we similar in form and general structure? Why is everyone still unique in thought and body? Yet, are we all curious beings?
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        Aug 5 2012: Such good thoughts James. I cannot yet respond so i went and watched a talk by Wolfram and put on my favourirtes list but I still need to spend more time in thought.