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Bacterial Computing

June 25, 2008

Bacteria may be the backbone of some future supercomputers.


Computing with bacteria. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the future, bacteria may solve computing problems too big for an ordinary PC. This doesn’t require teaching the bacteria calculus, but rather using them to flip small strands of DNA back and forth to encode the calculations. Davidson College bio-engineer Karmella Haynes explains.

KARMELLA HAYNES (Davidson College):
The piece of DNA that we’ve created to act as a little microprocessor can be naturally replicated through natural cell division.

Haynes’ team showed that with millions of bacteria working simultaneously, some of them solved a complex sorting problem by pure chance much sooner than a regular computer ever could on purpose. And although you need lab equipment to do the work and interpret the results, Haynes notes that the bacteria themselves are cheap and plentiful. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.