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Researchers Debut DNA-Powered Computer 158

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Columbia University and the University of New Mexico have built a DNA -powered computer that is unbeatable at Tic-Tac-Toe. Although it's much slower than a normal computer, the researchers say their proof-of-concept system could help them develop new techniques for sorting and analyzing viruses and DNA mutations."
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Researchers Debut DNA-Powered Computer

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  • Holy crap (Score:5, Funny)

    by joshetc ( 955226 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:56PM (#16474031)
    unbeatable at Tic-Tac-Toe This is un-fucking-believable.
  • by Bryansix ( 761547 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:57PM (#16474041) Homepage
    I thought most Tic-Tac-Toe games end in a tie.
  • Wha? Nobody is unbeatable at tic tac toe. A ferret can give you a cat's game.
    • by Astarica ( 986098 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:58PM (#16474063)
      That's exactly what unbeatable means - cannot be beaten. It does not mean it can beat you.
      • by demonbug ( 309515 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:17PM (#16474429) Journal
        That's exactly what unbeatable means - cannot be beaten. It does not mean it can beat you.

        My pet rock is also unbeatable at Tic-Tac-Toe. She discovered the cunning (hehe, cunning stunt bonus!) strategy of never making a move. I've been forced to concede every game so far as hunger, thirst and a need to urinate ultimately win out over my drive to be the greatest Tic-Tac-Toe player on the block.

        I blame my DNA.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Now wait a minute. It does not sound like you are trying very hard. Since you are waiting for the rock to make a move, you can go eat, drink, urinate, take a dump, sleep, have intimate relations, or anything else as long as you trust the rock not to cheat. If you wait it out long enough, the sun will eventually explode, and your rock will probably melt. Then you can claim victory and be the best. We all have goals, and the only way to achieve them is to persevere in the face of adversity.
        • Your pet rock is a genius. The only winning move is not to play.
  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @01:57PM (#16474047)
    If the best that my DNA can do is an unbeatable game of Tic-Tac-Toe.
  • The only way to win, is not to play the game. -WOPR
    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *
      I love this. First some idiot steals my joke. Then he gets modded up to +5 Funny while I sit at +3 Funny. Then *I* get the Redundant because *he* replied to the first post.


      Welcome to Slashdot, enjoy your stay.
      • I love this. First some idiot steals my joke. Then he gets modded up to +5 Funny while I sit at +3 Funny. Then *I* get the Redundant because *he* replied to the first post.

        Well, of course. The only winning move is not to play.

  • The real question is if it can be tied, or does it a DNA BSOD. Or like other things with DNA cheat, change one of the X's to O's or Vice Versa so it can win.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:00PM (#16474103)
      From TFA: "One limitation of the system is that the human player must always go second, after the centre square has been filled by the machine." Pfft... we can all be unbeatable if we have a little hissy fit about the center square...
    • by guyjr ( 180613 )
      I would think you could rig up a second tile with DNA taken from the same source material. This could act as a unit test against mutations in the DNA that might affect the outcome on tile 1. If the mutant genes on the second tile suddenly produce some undesirable outcome, then toss the whole batch and start over again.
  • by Lispy ( 136512 )
    Except that it sounds scary as hell.
    Lets keep the doomsday movie-references coming, Ill start:
    • by arivanov ( 12034 )
      You do not need scary movie references. It is more along the lines of scary book references.

      All you need is to add 2+2 [] to get 4 []

  • by AviLazar ( 741826 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:02PM (#16474127) Journal
    Playing with MAYA-II takes a long time," Macdonald admits. The system needs between 2 and 30 minutes to compute each move and a second machine is required to translate the fluorescent signals generated each time into a move in the game.

    No wonder it wins, it bores you to death by taking so long and hopes you fall asleep or quit.
  • Uhh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IcyNeko ( 891749 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:02PM (#16474143) Journal
    Is it just me, or does the title seem.. misleading? Powered by DNA? It's not really feeding on people's genomes in order to meet its energy requirements. :[
  • by Anonymous Coward
    someone play with me

  • This thing might get more viruses than Windows.
  • by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:07PM (#16474245) Homepage Journal
    (Hey don't complain, blame my DNA computer)
  • by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:08PM (#16474285) Homepage Journal

    Can anyone comment on how this is related (if at all) to a recent announcement in New Zealand about a new ability to "store and execute computer programmes within a microscopic DNA Pharmaceutical crystal"? [1] [] [2] []. Supposedly (according to radio reports) the New Zealand group has been working for 20 years in secret (or something) until the press release in the past day or so.

    I'm wondering if it's a case of one group having announced in a rush so as not to be overshadowed by another group that's been working on the same thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Otter ( 3800 )
      That press release ("a DNA Pharmaceutical entirely new form of Data Codon") is pure gibberish. Between the incoherent language, the weird secrecy and the fact that this seems to be a one man operation, I'd strongly suspect Graemme Brown is a crank.
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:09PM (#16474307)
    The Midi-Chlorians welcome their Tic-Tac-Toe playing overlords...

    Next, they'll probably want a WOW account.

    • Being that it takes 2-30 minutes per turn do you really want to wait that long when you're yelling at the Pally for a heal?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:10PM (#16474313)
    Most slashdotters are out of the equation, so I'll explain DNA computing for you real quick. It takes 9 months to spawn a child process and they usually outlive the parent. DNA computers use this thing called evolution which is the best fork() bomb ever created. It's all pretty fucking pointless actually.
    • Why haven't we seen this glowing thing on people yet? Does that mean that this thing is more evolved than we are?
    • by Xaroth ( 67516 )
      It's all pretty fucking pointless actually.

      No, no... you've got it mixed up. It's actually all pointless pretty fucking.
  • by gadgetman ( 4992 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:14PM (#16474383) Homepage
    This is actually the first thing I *can* wait to build a Beowulf cluster from.

  • so what? (Score:5, Funny)

    by shotgunsaint ( 968677 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:21PM (#16474517)
    So what? I built a computer that's COVERED in DNA.
  • Where future genetic-based computers such as this are really going to shine is in the solving of non-polynomial [] problems. A solution to the travelling salesman problem alone could save millions a year in fuel for transportation companies.
    • Ah yes, Adelman's legendary DNA solution to the TSP.

      O(1) in time. Beautiful.

      Still exponential in space though; the volume of DNA solution needed ramps up exponentially with the complexity of the problem.

      IIRC even vaguely interesting TSP's would require an olympic-sized swimming pool.

      The DNA strand carrying the answer would appear in the pool in a very short time. I wonder how long it would take for a commercial PCR machine to find the DNA strand which carries that answer...
  • Forgive me, but I'm not completely convinced by that achievement!
  • The closing statement from the flaming article: "Amos agrees that MAYA-II could help researchers.....But he warns that the DNA molecules used cannot be controlled perfectly, and could be prone to the occasional malfunction."

    So this is different from Microsoft Windows in what way?
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 )
      and could be prone to the occasional malfunction."

      So this is different from Microsoft Windows in what way?

            It would certainly open up a whole new range of possible viral attacks...only this time with real viruses!
  • You can teach a chicken to be unbeatable at Tic-tac-toe.
    • You can teach a chicken to be unbeatable at Tic-tac-toe.

      No, no you can't. When you see a chicken playing tic-tac-toe, it's a trick whereby feed is released to the place that it's supposed to go to next.

      Granted, you're still right that tic-tac-toe is an amazingly simple game, and thus, that's not much of an accomplishment for a computer. Still, it's a proof-of-concept that their computer can run some logic, not a demo of the next AMD / IBM / Intel CPU technology.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )
        Hunh... really? I could've sworn that chicken I saw once didn't get any food until _after_ it had made its move, because I remember looking for something like what you're describing. Still, it's been years since I saw it, and I could be mistaken.
        • There are different variations. Some train the chickens to peck at spots that light up, and guide the chickens to the right place. Others display the correct move regardless of where the chicken actually tapped. Either way, the player will always be separated from the chicken in a way so that you can't see what's going on.

          Not that it still doesn't require some training of the chicken. And it's still entertaining to watch, but it's still a trick. Especially when you see people lose to the chicken. Wh

  • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

    by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @02:33PM (#16474705) Homepage
    ...a Beowulf puddle of these.
    • .. form a cleaner unplugging the thing - now all that needs to happen is a bit too thorought sanitizing. Those things will never survive a hospital environment unless it's British .
  • I mean, after all, the genome map wasn't built in a day. Tic tac toe is one thing (forget the latency-- it's as bad as my mother) but what would a mass of DNA goo look like that knows how play Quake?
  • You know, I think this is a really great achievement, but calling it DNA is down-right incorrect and irresponsible. It's the beginning of bio-electrical circuits, some can argue the future of computing, but it has nothing to do with DNA...
  • Is it twice as powerful, ten thousand times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own one?
  • I didn't post this because the info was so minimal - but I heard an interview with the researcher this am on Morning Report on NZ's National Radio: see this link: yid=341955&catid=35 [] I'm waiting to see how this unfolds. The researcher, Graemme Brown, said that one of the first applications would be a swallowable 'pill' that records info from within the human body that can then be 'downloaded' from a swab of body fluids like saliva. When asked if Bill G
  • Tic Tac Toe beats YOU!
  • Cat's game snarks aside, this is genuine progress. Typically, a computer game version of tic tac toe plays by comparing the current board configuration against a collection of possible conditions, and determines the move that way -- or by scanning the board for possible win-in-one-move conditions and blocking them. In the first game, an unbeatable (it always wins or ties) game results (provided the collection of possible conditions/moves is accurate), and in the second case it's possible to win by creating
  • make it easier to clone my hard drive?
  • DNA (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I believe it uses "Xs" and "Ys" instead of "Xs" and "Os".
  • Bio-tech: Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by writerjosh ( 862522 )
    Wow, I can't believe nobody is excited about this. This is the birth of the next evolution of computers: bio-computers. Think about it. The first computers could only place simple games as well, but now look at us. Bio-computers are closer to recreating human technology: life.

    "It's lovely work," says Peter Bentley, a computer scientist linked to University College London. But he notes that a system that cannot be extended much further than playing tic-tac-toe "is merely a novelty". Stojanovic and Stefano
  • by Medievalist ( 16032 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @04:43PM (#16476599)

    My children are also unbeatable DNA-powered tic-tac-toe players.

    It wasn't hard to make them. Kind of fun, actually.
  • "Amos agrees that MAYA-II could help researchers in this way. But he warns that the DNA molecules used cannot be controlled perfectly, and could be prone to the occasional malfunction."

    Nuff said, so we'll attempt to use this til it completely fucks up and then go back to silcon.

    DNA might work, but at 2 minutes a move a "real" computer should be able to play 3-4 games against a fast opponent or probably a couple hundred times that against another compupter. Tic tac toe isn't even a complex game. Tic Tac To
  • I for one welcome our RNA Based..... HEEEY waitaminute... isn't the president DNA/RNA based?

        OH GOD NO!
  • How many petri dishes does it take to make a backup?

    Wonder if it has passed the capabilities of a mechanical computer yet.

GIVE: Support the helpless victims of computer error.