default article photo
August 6, 2009, 12:06 pm

DNA computers can answer questions!

A new role for DNA... as the information carrier in a computer that can answer "yes" or "no" questions!

[BBC News]

What was discovered?

DNA has been used to store the information needed to answer questions in a much more sophisticated way than ever before!

For example, using simple "if... then..." propositions, such as "All men are mortal. Socrates was a man. Therefore Socrates is a man.", the computer could be given a rule: "All men are mortal" and a molecular fact: "Socrates is a man" and could then answer the question "Is Socrates mortal?" correctly!

How?

The new technology uses molecules to represent facts and rules.

With an understanding of biochemistry, scientists were able to use simple rules of logic in the DNA computer to answer questions in a way similar to how humans program electronic computers.

Even the answer is given using molecules! A flash of green light from a fluorescent molecule can be covered by another molecule so that no light is seen, or an enzyme attracted to a part of the molecule representing the correct answer can break down the cover so that the light shines brightly!  So this on/off switch lets us see the computer's answer: green light = yes!

Why is it important?

DNA computers are already used to diagnose and treat cancers, and they could ultimately be used to work inside a cell. 

Action:

Difficult to set up home made experiments on this topic!  Imagination and a sound base in computer programming will go a long way if you want to be a scientist in this exciting new technology.