Biological Computers

Move over Intel, the new wave of micro-processors are about to hit the shelves. Colonies of yeast can be genetically engineered to form complex logical pathways which, when applied with particular stimuli, form incredibly powerful computations.

“It’s not an exact replica of a microprocessor. There are no hard wires or transistors. There are, however, complex cellular structures that responds very quickly and very accurately. We can use these to solve amazingly complex problems in the twinkling of an eye,” according to Ron Hamrick of Dubuque, “We calculated pi to one billion digits in less than twenty minutes with only half a teaspoon of sugar and a modest colony.”

While the bio-processors are hardly suitable for watches and computers, they do have a distinct advantage over commonplace silicon-based processors: they can grow.

“As the need for more processing power rises, we can increase the size of the colony. It seems that the processing power increases according to many factors, such as cell count, sugar content, surface area and oxygen / carbon dioxide ratios. The whole concept is scalable.”

After an exhausting set of trials, Ron and his team have settled upon a particular strain to serve as a bench-mark for future trials.

“We may see in the future that genetic engineering and microprocessing join forces to create ultra-complex pathways in living creatures. Who knows what the limits are?”ChesterLogoSmall

Rare As…?

Pushing genetic engineering to its limits, a team of Nepalese scientists are creating what will be the first “hen’s tooth”. Inspired by the classic idiom, the funding has been granted by an anonymous beneficiary who hopes to be the first, and last, collector of hen’s teeth.

“It’s genius,” says Paulo*, “We have the science. It should only take a few iterations to get it right.”

Getting it right is the problem, he goes on to say, since each new strain of chicken needs to be grown and checked for what actually constitutes a tooth. The technique involves ‘turning on’ recessive genes that exist naturally within the chicken, that have been made dormant.

Early indications are promising, although most ‘teeth’ have appeared as mere ridges on the bird’s beak.

It’s not all science, though. Paulo insists that there is a financial side to this as well, “By making the world’s only source of hen’s teeth, (the beneficiary) will have the monopoly and be able to control the number in existence. This keeps them extraordinarily rare and valuable. If it works out, he will more than recoup what he spent on the project.”

*Not his real name. Identities have been suppressed at the request of interviewees.ChesterLogoSmall