It's relatively easy to simulate life in an abstract sense, but it's tricky to do that cell by cell -- just ask the OpenWorm Project, which has spent months recreating a nematode in software. However, the team recently cleared an important milestone by getting its virtual worm to wiggle for the first time. The project now has an algorithm that triggers the same muscle contractions you'd see in the real organism, getting the 1,000-cell simulation to "swim" in a convincing fashion. There's still a long way to go before OpenWorm has a complete lifeform on its hands, mind you. The group has to introduce code for a nervous system, and performance is a problem -- it takes 72 hours to emulate one-third of a second's worth of activity. If all goes well, though, you'll eventually get to play with the worm through a browser. In the meantime, you can check out the digital critter's motion in a video after the break.
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Digitally simulated worm wriggles for the first time (video)