For a PC user, nothing chills the heart like the "Blue Screen of Death" in Windows. It means the computer has crashed.
Although crashes are as old as computers, some UK researchers may be taking the first steps toward sending blue screens to the same graveyard where 5.25-inch floppy disks are buried.
The boffins at University College in London (UCL) have made something they're calling a "systemic computer" that they say taps into the chaos found in nature to enable a computer to heal itself.
A chief cause of computer crashes, according to the researchers, is the way computers process the instructions in the programs they run. They do that sequentially, a step at a time. Disturb that sequence, and the computer jumps the track and crashes.
That's not how nature works. "Its processes are distributed, decentralized and probabilistic," a computer scientist working on the research, Peter Bentley, told New Scientist.
Nature is also fault tolerant, which is why biological systems can heal themselves, he added.
Unfortunately, the crash-proof computer being developed by the researchers won't be something rank-and-file computer users will see any time. The clue is in their assessment of the practical applications of the research: it could allow drones to reprogram themselves to cope with combat damage.
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