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DNA-Based Calculations

Researchers at the University of Manchester have demonstrated that they can use DNA as a computer, Popular Mechanics reports.

It adds that scientists have been eyeing DNA-based computing for decades because it would be able to perform billions of calculations at the same time — by copying itself — rather than one after another like a typical computer. That's what the Manchester team has shown is possible, it says, that a DNA computer can copy itself and perform simultaneous calculations.

In a paper in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, Manchester's Ross King and his colleagues describe their non-deterministic universal Turing machine design that's based on Thue string rewriting systems. Such an NUTM was previously only theoretical, they say. Using both computational modeling and in vitro molecular biology experimentation, they report that their design works and is thermodynamically favorable.

"Imagine a computer is searching a maze and comes to a choice point, one path leading left, the other right," King says in a statement. "Electronic computers need to choose which path to follow first. But our new computer doesn't need to choose, for it can replicate itself and follow both paths at the same time, thus finding the answer faster."

This, he adds, will allow for "the solution of many computational problems previously considered impossible."