m. c. de marco: To invent new life and new civilizations...

Bacterial Bits

At Technovelgy: the Guardian reports on solving the Hamiltonian path problem with E. coli.

Programming such a computer is no easy task, however. The researchers coded a simplified version of the problem, using just three cities, by modifying the DNA of Escherichia coli bacteria. The cities were represented by a combination of genes causing the bacteria to glow red or green, and the possible routes between the cities were explored by the random shuffling of DNA. Bacteria producing the correct answer glowed both colours, turning them yellow.

The experiment worked, and the scientists checked the yellow bacteria’s answer by examining their DNA sequence. By using additional genetic differences such as resistance to particular antibiotics, the team believe their method could be expanded to solve problems involving more cities.

This is not the only problem bacteria can solve. The research builds on previous work by the same team, who last year created a bacterial computer to solve the Burnt Pancake Problem.

I think I may need a category for “I kid you not.”