Tuesday, June 27, 2006


In Trafalgar Square on Sunday, something remarkable - artificial life, or a stab at it. Dutch artist Theo Jensen has been building curious walking machines, strandbeesten, out of lengths of plastic pipe selected by a computer program that simulates an evolutionary process. After a while, he took them out to the beach to race, and bred from the winners, thus providing a form of selection too. Things got interesting when he started a new lineage of creatures that could, being blown about by the wind, pump up compressed air into themselves, and therefore move upwind as well. He hopes that one day, they will wander the North Sea beaches, evolving without his intervention.

They look something like this, at least in the unusual circumstances of Trafalgar Square...

Once the wind picks up beyond a certain point, this one knocks a pin into the sand, and is then blown around it, gathering more energy in its bottles for when it has to move on in the last direction the wind left it pointing.

Wonderfully, the program which carries out the simulated evolution is written in nothing else but good old BASIC, a programming language I learned when I was about eight years old. Jensen is doing a lecture at the ICA next week, and I hope to come away with the source code - he says it's open source. Perhaps this will be the thing to make me go through with my project for this year, to learn a new programming language and get cracking.

Leaving, driving over Waterloo Bridge, I thought - I hope wankers don't smash them.

Update: Well, yet another cool internet idea turns out to be a bag of useless shit...just like so much else, YouTube just doesn't fucking work Sorry about that. It seems it takes a while for them to start working, and in the meantime the error message "this video is no longer available" is displayed..

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