Now, re-listen to Computer World.
Scientists have built the first living computer and tasked it with solving an important problem: flipping pancakes.
Researchers genetically engineered the bacterium E. coli to coax its DNA into computing a classic mathematical puzzle known as the burned pancake problem. Molecules of DNA have the natural ability to store and process information, and scientists have been performing computations with bare DNA molecules in lab dishes since the mid-1990s. But the new research, reported online in the Journal of Biological Engineering, is the first to do DNA computation in living cells.
“Imagine having the parallel processing power of a million computers all in the space of a drop of water,” says Karmella Haynes, a biologist at
Davidson Collegein . “It’s possible to do that because cells are so tiny and DNA is so tiny.” North Carolina
While the potential computational power of programmed bacteria is immense, the DNA-computation system that Haynes and her colleagues designed can only solve problems by flipping and sorting data. It doesn’t have the open-ended computing flexibility of a laptop computer or even a solar-powered calculator, so the bacteria can only handle a limited set of mathematical problems. “We’re not going to have bacteria running iPods just yet,” Haynes says.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Ubiwar leads us to this fascinating and somewhat disturbing article on bacteria engineered to do basic computing problems.