OpenWorm is an open source project dedicated to creating a virtual C. elegans nematode in a computer.
A few months ago BBC News reported that:
“The Open Worm project aims to build a lifelike copy of a nematode roundworm entirely out of computer code. The Open Worm project started in May 2013 and is slowly working towards creating a virtual copy of the Caenorhabditis elegans nematode. This worm is one of the most widely studied creatures on Earth and was the first multicelled organism to have its entire genome mapped. The simulated worm slowly being built out of code aims to replicate C. elegans in exquisite detail with each of its 1,000 cells being modelled on computer.”
Now the OpenWorm Kickstarter invites you to join in contributing to the creation of the first digital organism and we want to give you your own “WormSim” to play with on your web browser:
“Your WormSim will improve over time and will get smarter as our model gets better and closer to the real one… All source code produced by this campaign will always be publicly available under open source license. However building a WormSim from source is a complex operation that requires advanced engineering skills. The WormSims created and brought to you by this campaign will run on a rather advanced cloud infrastructure and will be easily available in your browser without requiring any programming skills.”
Instead of a science project that happens in an inaccessible lab behind closed doors, OpenWorm is an open science project. The OpenWorm team is also creating the OpenWorm Academy to teach you all about how this tiny worm works and what goes in to creating a digital organism in an easy to understand online course.
The New World Notes article has a very interesting idea. Project coordinator Stephen Larson says that developers are free to import the OpenWorm code into Second Life (or wherever else), and use it to build their own forms of artificial life:
“100% of the code is open source on GitHub under the OpenWorm organization. The coding skill required to adapt it into SL may be challenging, but in principle there is nothing stopping the SL community from doing this and we would support anyone who wants to take that up!”
I think a Second Life public access sim dedicated to OpenWorms would be the coolest thing in SL ever. Think of a virtual aquarium, or terrarium, for virtual beings – possible future development are described in Ted Chiang‘s The Lifecycle of Software Objects. If nobody is doing it yet, who wants to talk about setting up a project?