Army Awards $1.5M to Study Emergent Computation

James Crutchfield
James Crutchfield

Emergent behavior is easy to find in nature, from fire ants linking together during floods to videos going viral on social media. But creating algorithms that mimic emergent behavior — in which small interactions among individuals cause a big change across a system — presents many challenges for researchers.

The U.S. Department of Defense's Army Research Office has awarded $1.5 million to James Crutchfield, professor of physics in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, and his colleagues to advance our understanding of how to predict and program emergent behavior. The three-year project is a collaboration with California Institute of Technology faculty members Michael Roukes, the Frank J. Roshek Professor of Physics, Applied Physics, and Bioengineering; and Erik Winfree, professor of computer science. The researchers will design arrays of nanoscale information-heat engines that exhibit emergent computation and deploy DNA computing technology to evolve emergent computation in chemical reactions.

Becky Oskin, content strategist in the College of Letters and Science

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