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Original Date: Sat, 7 Sep 2002 07:16:31 -0500
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Radio emerges from the electronic soup
16:00 31 August 02
Exclusive from New Scientist
A self-organising electronic circuit has stunned engineers by turning
itself into a radio receiver.
This accidental reinvention of the radio followed an experiment to see
if an automated design process, that uses an evolutionary computer
program, could be used to "breed" an electronic circuit called an
oscillator. An oscillator produces a repetitive electronic signal,
usually in the form of a sine wave.
Paul Layzell and Jon Bird at the University of Sussex in Brighton
applied the program to a simple arrangement of transistors and found
that an oscillating output did indeed evolve.
But when they looked more closely they found that, despite producing
an oscillating signal, the circuit itself was not actually an
oscillator. Instead, it was behaving more like a radio receiver,
picking up a signal from a nearby computer and delivering it as an
In essence, the evolving circuit had cheated, relaying oscillations
generated elsewhere, rather than generating its own.
Layzell and Bird were using the software to control the connections
between 10 transistors plugged into a circuit board that was fitted
with programmable switches. The switches made it possible to connect
the transistors differently.
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