Coding with Life's Code

Image: Courtesy of John Reif  NEXT GENERATION PC? An AB* array lattice formed from two varieties of DNA tiles, including one (B*) containing an extra loop of DNA projecting out of the lattice plane, faciliting atomic force microscope imaging of the lattice. A multidisciplinary group of researchers is trying to change the way people think about computers. Why rely solely on silicon-based hardware, they say, when there is so much promise in what Grzegorz Rozenberg of the University of Leid

Aileen Constans
Nov 24, 2002
Image: Courtesy of John Reif
 NEXT GENERATION PC? An AB* array lattice formed from two varieties of DNA tiles, including one (B*) containing an extra loop of DNA projecting out of the lattice plane, faciliting atomic force microscope imaging of the lattice.

A multidisciplinary group of researchers is trying to change the way people think about computers. Why rely solely on silicon-based hardware, they say, when there is so much promise in what Grzegorz Rozenberg of the University of Leiden, Netherlands, calls "bioware"--nucleic acids and enzymes? It's not as far-fetched as it sounds: A computer is nothing more than a device that computes--that is, it performs a defined series of operations on a set of input data to produce an answer. Using this definition, one can imagine, as Douglas Hofstadter did,1 that the central dogma of molecular biology is a computation in which an input DNA is transformed via...