Are We Getting Closer to “The Matrix”?

17 Sep, 2012

New types of computers are on their way!

Three years ago, a group of researches in the United States configured a “living computer” bred from bacteria, using the latter’s DNA as hard drives. These bacteria are called E. coli bacteria, and specialists affirm that if it reproduces at a high speed, it can be programmed to act as a very powerful parallel computer.

For instance, this bio-computer has been able to solve a complex mathematical puzzle called the Hamiltonian Path Problem faster than any silicon-based machine.  In short, this puzzle consists of finding out if there’s a path that will go from a beginning node to an ending node, while visiting all the nodes of a network only once. DNA computing offers the possibility to use billions of these bacteria to independently and simultaneously search for the solution, dramatically increasing the speed of its computation.

Escherichia Coli Bacteria

One of the main reasons why researches are focusing on bacteria to power computers is their high speed of reproduction, which allows information to be saved for years. However, this is not the only one. Bacteria are also immune to hackers and electrical failures, avoiding any type of data theft and loss. In addition, some bacteria can survive nuclear radiation and ensure information will be safely stored even through the most destructive situations.

This year, researches in the UK and Japan have found that magnetic bacteria can be used to build bio-computers as well. A particular type of bacteria, called Magnetospitilllum magneticum that lives at the bottom of lakes and ponds, ingests iron and becomes magnetic due to the creation of magnetite (tiny magnetic crystals). In addition, these bacteria follow the magnetic field lines of the Earth. Therefore, scientists plan on changing the local magnetic field lines to direct the bacteria and arrange them in different ways, growing magnets of specific shapes. Most importantly, they believe these bacteria could be used to create computer hard drives as well as wires inside bio-computers , and speed these machines up.

Magnetic Bacteria

One of the big benefits of bio-computers is that bacteria are very small in size and can reproduce fast, dramatically increasing the machine’s processing capacity. This represents some undeniable, and quite amazing, scientific progress. However, the expression DNA computing gives me goose bumps. How do you feel about this?

To read the details of the E. coli bacteria research published in the Journal of Biological Engineering, click here.

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