SEMINAR: When Does a Slime Mould Compute?

Professor Susan Stepney
Department of Computer Science
University of York
United Kingdom

When Does a Slime Mould Compute?

Department of Computer Science
Thursday, July 24, 2014, 1:00 p.m., Room EN-2022


Some people are using billiard balls, chemicals, bacteria, slime moulds, soap films, spaghetti, even black holes, as computers (although some of these only in theory yet). But what does it mean for such unconventional substrates to compute? I will introduce our framework for physical computing, give requirements for physical system to be used as a computer, and show how some unconventional substrates are indeed computing, and how others are not.

Short Bio:

Susan Stepney is Professor of Computer Science at the University of York, and Director of the York Centre for Complex Systems. She has had a somewhat unconventional route to this place.

She was originally a theoretical astrophysicist in the 1980s, but decided then that an industrial career offered more long term chance of being able to eat.

She then worked for 18 years in industry. She was a research scientist at GEC-Marconi, where she worked on some of the first Transputer systems. Then she moved to Logica, where she worked on formal methods, including using Z to specify and prove security properties of financial smartcard products.

In 2002 the opportunity arose to move back into academia, this time in Computer Science. She used this chance to change focus, to unconventional computing and complex systems. She has research interests in Artificial Life, Artificial Chemistries, Open-Ended Evolution, and computing with unconventional devices, from quantum computers to slime moulds.

Today she is going to talk about what it means to use unconventional materials such as slime moulds to do computation.