Evolving New Ways to Walk
Darwin@Home is a computer program created by Gerald de Jong to model evolution. While it aspires to be a general-purpose evolution platform, at the moment it does something pretty remarkable: it takes virtual creatures designed by humans and evolves them until they can walk.
Because Darwin@Home's creatures are non-biological, they can have all kinds of strange body plans -- they aren't limited to the bodies we're familiar with in Earth-based biology. In the video below, de Jong shows a series of bizarre virtual creatures (created by community members on their home computers) that have evolved walking strategies in the Darwin@Home software. Some are more elegant than others, but they're all effective. It's a weird-looking bunch, strangely reminiscent of deep-sea creatures. Have a look:
For more on Darwin@Home, check out this page of videos, the community site, or the project homepage. You can also download the software (it's written in Java, so it runs on many platforms) and get started designing your own creatures!