[Note: This item comes from reader Randall Head. DLH]
Scientists Want to Build a Super-Fast, Self-Replicating Computer That “Grows as It Computes”
Well, that’s intimidating.
By Bec Crew
Mar 4 2017
Scientists say it’s possible to build a new type of self-replicating computer that replaces silicon chips with processors made from DNA molecules, and it would be faster than any other form of computer ever proposed – even quantum computers.
Called a nondeterministic universal Turing machine (NUTM), it’s predicted that the technology could execute all possible algorithms at once by taking advantage of DNA’s ability to replicate almost perfect copies of itself over billions of years.
The basic idea is that our current electronic computers are based on a finite number of silicon chips, and we’re fast approaching the limit for how many we can actually fit in our machines.
To address this limitation, researchers are currently working on making quantum computers a reality – super-powerful devices that replace the bits of electronic computers with quantum-entangled particles called qubits.
Unlike regular bits that can only take on the form of 1 or 0 in the binary code, qubits can take the form of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two simultaneously, which allows them to perform many different calculations at once.
Obviously this would result in a huge boost in speed, but quantum computers are an incredibly difficult thing to get right, because of how complicated it is to create the exact conditions for not one quantum-entangled particle, but a whole lot of them.
Despite concerted efforts all over the world, no one has managed to build a fully functioning quantum computer.
But the secret third option here is a DNA-based machine that gets all the benefits of a quantum computer, without the headache of quantum weirdness, because it’s based on DNA doing what DNA does best – replicating.
“DNA is an excellent medium for information processing and storage,” the team from the University of Manchester in the UK explains.
“It is very stable, as the sequencing of ancient DNA demonstrates. It can also reliably be copied, and many genes have remained virtually unchanged for billions of years.”
To give you an idea of the difference such a device could make in the world, imagine you’ve got a computer program searching a maze, and it reaches a fork in the road.
A regular electronic computer would have to decide which path to follow, but a DNA-based computer wouldn’t need to choose – it could replicate itself and follow both paths at the same time.
With both paths covered, the program would figure out which one leads to the end of the maze far quicker than an electronic computer that could only test one at a time.
“Our computer’s ability to grow as it computes makes it faster than any other form of computer, and enables the solution of many computational problems previously considered impossible,” says one of the team, Ross D. King.
“Quantum computers are an exciting other form of computer, and they can also follow both paths in a maze, but only if the maze has certain symmetries, which greatly limits their use.”