Natural Computing
Fall Term 2016

Instructor and Schedule

The instructor of this course is:

Instructor Office E-mail Phone
Selim Akl 520 Goodwin Hall akl@cs.queensu.ca 33184

One session per week is scheduled for this course as follows:

Day Time Place
Tuesday 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Goodwin Hall 521

Office Hours

I will be glad to meet with you any time you need to see me in my office. Please talk to me in class to arrange an appointment.

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The final mark will be based on class presentations and a project.

There are no assignments to be handed in. Also, there is no midterm.

Some advice on how to conduct your presentations is available here.

Course Description

This course is an introduction to nature-inspired computation. We will study unconventional models of computation and unconventional computational paradigms. Unconventional models of computation to be studied include quantum computers, biological computers (in vivo and in vitro), analog neural networks, accelerating machines, and so on. Unconventional computational paradigms to be studied include computing in real time with deadlines, computing under the control of the laws of nature, computing subject to mathematical constraints, computing with time varying variables, interactive computing, and so on. We will also study evolutionary computing, neurocomputing, swarm intelligence, immunocomputing, the geometry of nature, and artificial life.

There are at least four reason for interest in studying natural computing:

1. To provide additional evidence that "Nature computes". More precisely, we endeavor to show that the computational paradigm is capable of modeling Nature's work with great precision. Thus, when viewed as computations, the processes of Nature may be better explained and better understood.

2. To exhibit examples of natural algorithms whose features are sufficiently attractive, so as to inspire effective algorithms for conventional computers. Nature's algorithms may be more efficient than conventional ones and may lead to better solutions for a variety of optimization problems.

3. To identify problems where natural processes themselves are the only viable approach towards a solution. Such problems may occur in environments where conventional computers are inept, in particular when living organisms, including the human body itself, are the subject of the computation.

4. To better understand what it means `to compute'. Is there more to computing than arithmetic and logic? The processes of acquiring measurements from, and producing information to, the external physical environment; the phenomena of nature, such as the spin of an electron, a chemical reaction, DNA replication and so on, are these computations?


An undergraduate course on the theory of computation or on the design and analysis of algorithms.

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Recent papers on unconventional computation by members of the Parallel and Unconventional Computation Group in the School of Computing are available here.

Paper Repository

Requirements and Marking Scheme

Course requirements and marking scheme are described here

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