Evolution may be an exciting field of biology research, especially as our understanding of genetics increases, but the many of the answers to how specific adaptations evolved in specific organisms are shrouded in the mist of time. If the fossil record is incomplete, where do we turn for answers? Robots, duh.
Biorobotics researcher John Long turned to evolving robots, specifically, to try to answer questions about veterbrae evolution in fish. Darwin’s Devices is his tale of the amazing Evolvabots and his quest for answers.
Why is this on our bookshelf?
Plenty of geeks love robotics, but when you combine geeky robotics with another scientific field, the geekery abounds! In addition, we can welcome the author into our geeky ranks with his enthusiasm for robotic fish research, reoccurring Star Trek references, and for naming the last chapter after a Hitchhikers reference (So Long and Thanks for All the Robotic Fish).
Rating (3 stars)
Although this book was teeming with potential, it failed to reach it. It seemed to me that the author, instead of writing a book all about evolving robots in the field of evolutionary biology, instead rewrote ever single paper he got published in a scientific journal into layman terms.
Although you can easily follow along, it is still an exhaustive account of one man’s, one lab’s, experiments with evolving robots. Not at all what I was hoping for.
Still, it is worthwhile reading the thought-provoking introductory chapters (Why Robots? and The Game of Life). I enjoyed the author’s geeky sense of humor and the last two chapters of the book were interesting as well.
Read this book:
If you have an obsessive interest in robotics and/or evolution and you just want a detailed but accessible description of research in either field.
Don't Read this book:
If you have a casual interest in robotics and/or evolution and you just want an interesting book about either.
Once you're done, do this:
Watch swimming robots on YouTube.