A Robot Out of Cyberspace

A computer designs and builds its own buglike progeny, but it's not quite ready to rule the world

Picture a toddler playing with Legos or Tinker Toys. Without any instruction, she tries putting them together. Finally, after a lot of trial and error, she assembles a little machine that actually does something. Much to her delight, it chugs along the floor like some fanciful arthropod out of A Bug's Life. As the precocious builder's parent, you would be proud--especially if you were told that what she did on her own has long eluded the world's most powerful computers.

Last week, when scientists at Brandeis University announced that one of their machines had finally designed and built a simple, toylike...

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