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  • Writer's pictureJean-Francois Podevin

MULLER'S RATCHET : Evolution machine

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Stochasticon # LXIII [1]" The Evolution machine" or "MULLER'S RATCHET"

I built this Stochasticon [1] out of an obsolete contraption. On the gessoed surface of ping-pong balls, I painted dozens of alien critters. Since intuition generally precedes reason in artistic endeavors, I could only explain this machine at the time I built it, other than saying: "These are socially awkward creatures, hoping to find a dance partner in this Keno/Hamster-wheel like Cosmic Dance.

My son William who is a bio-geneticist, tool a look at it and said: "This is an evolution machine!...A perfect example of the "Muller's Ratchet" principle!"

Here is the definition of the Muller Ratchet:

"Asexual" reproduction compels genomes to be inherited as indivisible blocks. This results in an eventual accumulation of mutations known as genetic load . In theory, the genetic load carried by asexual populations eventually becomes so great that the population goes extinct. In sexual reproduction, the process of genetic recombination allows the genomes of the progeny to be different from the genomes of the parents. Progeny genomes with fewer mutations can be generated from more highly mutated parental genomes by introducing in the progeny genomes mutation-free portions of the parental chromosomes. (

In this machine, a Plexiglas window keeps the balls from flying away. Every time one turns the crank, the nylon spikes attached to its axle spring the balls forward, against the Plexiglas, towards their momentary entropic balance below. There, each creature presents a side of itself to another creature, at random , and if these creatures were alive they would procreate unique individual beings with each encounter.[2]

[1] Stochasticon: The word is a "portmanteau" of the word "Stochastic" defined as random variables which can be interpreted but not predicted, themselves confined within a closed circuit system, and the word Icon defined as a pictorial representation. The word was coined by Carm. K. Goode (Visual Syntax) as it applied to my machines.

[2] After I painted the first and the second ball, I tried to imagine what a couple's offspring would look like to create the second and third balls and so on.

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