Ninth International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems (ALIFE9)

Boston, Massachusetts

September 12-15th 2004

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The Quantum Coreworld

Tutorial at ALife IX


Alexander (Sasha) Wait
Harvard Medical School, Department of Genetics
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur, Boston, MA 02115 USA



Does the underlying physics of a living system change its properties in a qualitative way? Could a different physics permit entirely new types of life? The Quantum Coreworld is an abstract world inhabited by assembly language programs; this language—an extended version of Corewar's Redcode—permits programs to use quantum operations on quantum bits (qubits). The aim of the Quantum Coreworld project is to engineer, or discover, toy quantum lifeforms. The success of such organisms—at exploiting available resources before competitors or at cooperating with genetically identical friends—must depend on their use of quantum operations. If this endeavor required delicate control of large quantum systems, there would be no way to get started with current technology. As it happens, however, interesting quantum operations can be simulated on an ordinary digital computer.

The Quantum Coreworld gets its name from the game Corewar and the first Corewar-like artificial world of Rasmussen, Knudsen, Feldberg, and Hindsholm (1990). The Quantum Coreworld ecology is run 24x7 on participating Internet servers at The software, pQmars, used to run the ecology and to develop and debug new lifeforms is available under the GPL license.


Aims of the Tutorial

In this session the audience will be introduced to: the biological desiderata used to design the Quantum Coreworld, the details of its artificial chemistry, the quantum mechanical operations available in the chemistry, the organization of coreworlds into an Internet accessible ecology and some experimental demonstrations that the world "works".

Although a half-day tutorial is inadequate to provide a hands on demonstration of writing quantum Redcode replicators or hitchhikers, the session is intended to provoke extensive audience participation. The Quantum Coreworld is a specific example of the world as it might be, this tutorial is a tour of one attempt at probing the physical and computational limits of (artificial) living systems.


Target Audience

The Quantum Coreworld project is necessarily highly multidisciplinary;  the target audience includes physicists, biologists and computer scientists as well as free software and Corewar hobbyists. No prior knowledge of quantum mechanics, quantum computing, artificial chemistries or assembler automata is assumed.