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Computer Scientists Create Reprogrammable Molecular Computing System

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posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 03:27 PM

Computer scientists at Caltech have designed DNA molecules that can carry out reprogrammable computations, for the first time creating so-called algorithmic self-assembly in which the same "hardware" can be configured to run different "software."

In a paper publishing in Nature on March 21, a team headed by Caltech's Erik Winfree (PhD '98), professor of computer science, computation and neural systems, and bioengineering, showed how the DNA computations could execute six-bit algorithms that perform simple tasks. The system is analogous to a computer, but instead of using transistors and diodes, it uses molecules to represent a six-bit binary number (for example, 011001) as input, during computation, and as output. One such algorithm determines whether the number of 1-bits in the input is odd or even, (the example above would be odd, since it has three 1-bits); while another determines whether the input is a palindrome; and yet another generates random numbers.

The system works by self-assembly: small, specially designed DNA strands stick together to build a logic circuit while simultaneously executing the circuit algorithm. Starting with the original six bits that represent the input, the system adds row after row of molecules—progressively running the algorithm. Modern digital electronic computers use electricity flowing through circuits to manipulate information; here, the rows of DNA strands sticking together perform the computation. The end result is a test tube filled with billions of completed algorithms, each one resembling a knitted scarf of DNA, representing a readout of the computation. The pattern on each "scarf" gives you the solution to the algorithm that you were running. The system can be reprogrammed to run a different algorithm by simply selecting a different subset of strands from the roughly 700 that constitute the system.

The researchers were able to experimentally demonstrate six-bit molecular algorithms for a diverse set of tasks. In mathematics, their circuits tested inputs to assess if they were multiples of three, performed equality checks, and counted to 63. Other circuits drew "pictures" on the DNA "scarves," such as a zigzag, a double helix, and irregularly spaced diamonds. Probabilistic behaviors were also demonstrated, including random walks, as well as a clever algorithm (originally developed by computer pioneer John von Neumann) for obtaining a fair 50/50 random choice from a biased coin.

Although DNA computers have the potential to perform more complex computations than the ones featured in the Nature paper, Winfree cautions that one should not expect them to start replacing the standard silicon microchip computers. That is not the point of this research. "These are rudimentary computations, but they have the power to teach us more about how simple molecular processes like self-assembly can encode information and carry out algorithms.

This is really cool. Scientists have developed a programmable 6-bit DNA based molecular computer and wrote several programs to.demonstrate its capabilities.

Personally, stuff like this excites me more than quantum computing. If anything has the potential to replace a general purpose computer.I think it'll be something more like this rather than quantum based. The uncertaintity inherent to quantum computers means a general purpose quantum computer may never exist and would remain as some kind of coprocessor for speeding up different algorithms. A biological system made up of millions of programmable strands of DNA performing millions of simultaneous calculations would open up some pretty amazing advances in computing.

posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 03:58 PM
a reply to: dug88

Biology is proof that chemistry is inherently information-based and can store information that can direct algorithmic behavior at the molecular level," he says.

(same source)

That was the best part!! "Chemistry is inherently information-based," how cool is that?!!

I would go one step beyond and say, "Universe is inherently information-based" as the quantum jiggle gives rise to atoms which eventually does chemistry... it is damn close to saying something like, "That is proof of God"!! The suns have to explode to make bigger atoms which allow life...

Now I am back to saying it is turtles all the way down!!


posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 05:32 PM

We use this set to construct 21 circuits that execute algorithms including copying, sorting, recognizing palindromes and multiples of 3, random walking, obtaining an unbiased choice from a biased random source, electing a leader, simulating cellular automata, generating deterministic and randomized patterns, and counting to 63, with an overall per-tile error rate of less than 1 in 3,000. These findings suggest that molecular self-assembly could be a reliable algorithmic component within programmable chemical systems. (abstract) - Diverse and robust molecular algorithms using reprogrammable DNA self-assembly .

Persistent link:

21 circuits and only 6-bits! That is crazy, cool! I doubt I could program that with an error rate of 1 in 3,000! lol.

"Why yes, I am a molecular programmer!" (that sounds like C3-PO, for some reason!)

posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 05:42 PM
Interesting and potentially frightening as well.

Think of how the above might be developed, then check this out:


posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 06:02 PM
a reply to: jadedANDcynical

Remember this thread?

ATS, 2017: A MYSTERY - Why Did Bio-Supercomputing Go Dark?

Now combine all of that together with AI and prepared to get paranoid!

Grey Goo anyone?

posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 06:04 PM

I do remember that thread, and yes grey goo is one of the more or less plausible scenarios behind what may end up getting us. Heck it might be what gets any civilization that gets advanced enough and that explains why we don't see hordes of spaceships lined up to look at us poor ignorant primates.

posted on Mar, 20 2019 @ 06:15 PM
Yeah, I'm gonna say this sounds not good. I would say creepy but I already knew this kind of thing was headed for creepy ages ago. People can't not do things they shouldn't. And even if they were inclined to, they'd have to do them if they knew it was possible because they'd want to do them first. The consequences of not being first in creepy leaves creepy to your enemies.

posted on Mar, 21 2019 @ 07:20 AM
a reply to: dug88

cool stuff!

posted on Mar, 21 2019 @ 07:26 AM

Along with your way of thinking you might like this presentation which I find fascinating because there are not too many banned Ted talks:

It's not clear how deep the root of consciousness goes into the one wave making up all of existence.

Still, DNA programmed computer programs is really cool stuff. It would like to see the technology described in the OP used for cleaning up toxic waste.

People have to be very careful in declaring the end of mankind though. Programs are what is called "weak AI". No one has ever written a program having "strong AI". And there are specific reasons why not outlined in this video:

The nerds at Google respond to Searle like a bunch cry babies. I think Searle crushed them with his arguments.

posted on Mar, 21 2019 @ 04:16 PM
a reply to: dug88

But can it run Crysis 3?

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