Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Strandbeest Evolution as of 2021

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Art & Environment

Ed Hessler 

The evolutionary development of the mechanical sculptures known as Strandbeest is updated by their creator Theo Jansen in this short, soothing, marvelous video (4m 30s) for the year 2021. I sometimes want to think of them as a new form of life!

The Jansen link includes a family tree of the Streenbeast design evolution, each with an appropriate two-part name (a binomial). The fall and winter creations are tested in the spring and summer and modified in response to their environmental behavior. 

It may be tempting to make an analogy between Jansen's spring/summer interventions which are common engineering practices and with Darwinian ideas for the mechanism of adaptive evolution. So to be short, even abrupt: Don't! I'm not going to further explain but a few links are provided below if you are interested.

Here are a few differences: there is no blueprint in envisioned, the aim is not optimality but about getting genes into the next generation, natural selection works with what is at hand (relentless tinkering;as Darwin put it "the variations are relentlessly scrutinized"), individuals do not evolve but populations do.  Jansen is able to directly intervenes on a single machine, not a population of them, replacing/removing/modifying parts, able to immediately observe the effects, making further changes when necessary with a specific aim in mind. achieve the vision he had in mind.

For starters see this, this, and from the University of California Understanding Evolution website. selection.

Jansen notes that "at summer's end the Strandbeest are declared extinct," with some of the parts pitched into the "boneyard," becoming "fossils." You can see some of the fossils at his website where they are for sale.


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