Dominik Madon Dominik.Madon at
Tue May 6 18:58:49 EST 1997

                 V O N   N E U M A N N ' S   D A Y


A one-day international conference, organized by the Logic Systems
Laboratory of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
(EPFL) on Friday July 25th, 1997, will remember John von Neumann's
contributions to bio-inspired computer science. With the assistance of
international specialists in the field, and notably of Dr. Christopher
Langton of the Santa Fe Institute (US), we will try to determine the
progress of John von Neumann's dream: what have we achieved in the
field of self-reproducing computing machines?


In 1997, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the death of John von
Neumann. Aside from his contributions to mathematics, John von Neumann
is considered one of the founders of the fields of computer science
and engineering, notably giving his name to the standard architecture
of computers. In the last years of his life, starting at the end of
the forties, his research was marked by a strong biological
inspiration. His last major contribution, the conception of a self-
reproducing cellular automaton, demonstrates an exceptional vision and
daring. Vision, because he borrowed from biology the concept of
genomic information before the discovery of the DNA's double-helix
structure (which implies that, to reproduce, an organism requires a
description of itself). Daring, because his automaton is capable of
both universal construction and universal computation.

But neither von Neumann himself nor his direct successors (Burks,
Thatcher, Codd, etc.) were able to simulate the automaton in its
entirety, and much less to physically implement it. In 1984,
Dr. Christopher Langton introduced a new self- replicating cellular
automaton, simple enough to be entirely simulated. The repercussions
of this work were considerable, both for computer science in general
(with the birth of the concept of "artificial life") and for the
self-replication of artificial organisms in particular.

The goal of this special day is to revisit von Neumann's and Langton's
historical contributions, and to ascertain our progress in the
self-replication of computing machines.


  8:30   Registration
  9:00   D. Mange, Lausanne        Introduction
  9:15   P. Marchal, Neuchâtel     Von Neumann's Life and Contributions
                                   to Computer Science
  9:45   B. McMullin, Dublin       Von Neumann's Problem: The
                                   Evolutionary Growth of Complexity

  10:45  C. Langton, Santa Fe      From von Neumann's Automaton to
                                   Langton's Loop  
  11:15  G. Tempesti, Lausanne     Self-replicating Multicellular

  14:00  J. Zahnd and M. Sipper,   A Self-reproducing Loop with
         Lausanne                  Universal Computation
  14:30  J. Signorini, Paris       Simulating von Neumann's Automaton
  15:00  U. Pesavento, Princeton   An Implementation of von Neumann's 
                                   Self-reproducing Machine

  16:00  P. Nussbaum, Neuchâtel    Industrial Development of Self-healing 
                                   Field-Programmable Processor Arrays
  16:30  J.-O. Haenni and          Hardware Implementation of von
         J.-L. Beuchat, Lausanne   Neumann's Automaton
  17:00  Demonstrations

In consideration of the subject and of the nationality of the 
speakers, all the presentations will be in English.

For further information, please refer to the WWW pages at:

You can also contact the organizers directly:
  Gianluca Tempesti
  Phone: (+41 21) 693 26 76
  Fax: (+41 21) 693 37 05
  Email: tempesti at

The address of our laboratory is:
  Logic Systems Laboratory
  Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  CH-1015 Lausanne (Switzerland)
  Phone: (+41 21) 693 26 40
  Fax: (+41 21) 693 37 05

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