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The DNA computer

Scientists are attempting to create an entirely new kind of computer, one based on the building blocks of life. But don't get rid of your laptop just yet

By Philip Ball   December 2006

Genesis Machines by Martyn Amos (Atlantic Books, £18.99)

Computers aren’t what you think they are. Rather than plastic boxes filled with transistors, they could be made from ping-pong balls rolling down plastic tubes. Or, as Martyn Amos explains, they could be test tubes full of DNA.

Computation is about encoding and manipulating information, an abstract notion that makes no reference to any particular physical embodiment. A farmer who opens his gate to heifers but not to Friesians is doing computing—not just in a colloquial sense, but according to the formal definition supplied by the fathers of computational theory. Computers as…

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