Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

© 2004 Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004.


3.5 Morowitz Floating Electromechanical Replicator (1959)

In 1959, Harold Morowitz [688] designed (but did not actually build) a very simple replicator consisting of two components (Figure 3.11) having the density of water. The device resides in a sea of floating parts (perhaps in a large tub of water) agitated constantly by a stirrer. The first component (A) is a complex unit consisting of an electromagnet with a soft iron core, one sliding rod, two batteries, two microswitches, two metal plates forming an open capacitor, and some wire. The second component (B) is an electret that docks into a port on the first component; with the electret in place, the electromagnet is turned on. An AB replicator selects an A part and a B part from the environment, assembles them into an AB daughter replicator, then releases the daughter AB unit back into the environment, completing the act of replication.

A single 5-step replicative cycle (see Figure 3.12) proceeds as follows:

Step 1. The parent replicator’s electromagnet is on, attracting the soft iron bar of an inert “A” part.
Step 2. The joining of an “A” to the parent pushes in the sliding rod, closing one microswitch and activating the capacitor.
Step 3. An electret “B” part that collides with the port is pulled into position by the capacitor, completing the assembly.
Step 4. Insertion of the electret closes the second microswitch, activating the daughter’s electromagnet.
Step 5. The two electromagnets repel, separating daughter from parent, and the replicative cycle is complete.


Last updated on 1 August 2005