Entropy and Self-Replicating Robots

Dr. Gregory Chirikjian
Professor of Engineering, Johns Hopkins University

Videography by Nerine & Robert Clemenzi, Edited by Nerine Clemenzi
Copyright © Philosophical Society of Washington.  All rights reserved.

Dr. Greg Chirikjian


This talk will discuss issues in the design, construction and analysis of "self-replicating robots," i.e., robots that can make copies of themselves from spare parts. Videos of toy robots that can replicate will be shown. In order to quantify the robustness of such robots, measures of the degree of environmental uncertainty that they can handle must be computed. The entropy of the set of all possible arrangements (or configurations) of spare parts in the environment is such a measure. Moreover, the rate of reduction in configurational entropy during replication can be used to assess bottlenecks in the replication process. Issues in how to design parts to facilitate the reduction in entropy are therefore addressed.

About the Speaker:

Gregory S. Chirikjian received undergraduate degrees from Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. Since 1992 he has been on the faculty of the Department of Mechanical Engineering,Johns Hopkins University, where he is now Professor. He served as department chair from 2004-2007. His research interests include robotics, applications of group theory in a variety of engineering disciplines and the mechanics of biological macromolecules. He was a National Science Foundation Young Investigator in 1993, a Presidential Faculty Fellow in 1994, and a 1996 recipient of the ASME Pi Tau Sigma Gold Medal. He is a Fellow of the ASME and the IEEE. He is an author of 200 publications, including three books.

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