Faster ComputersThe newest and most revolutionary break thorough in computing burst onto the scene entirely without warning. One night in the summer of 1993, computer scientist Leonard Edelman was reading James Watson's classic textbook. Molecular Biology of the Gene. Edelman was fascinated by the parallels he saw between genes and the computers he dealt with each day. Computers manipulate information that is encoded as binary numbers strings of zeros and ones. The genes he saw manipulate information that is encoded as strings of adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine the four nucleotides that combine to form DNA.
To Adelman, this insight was more than an analogy it was something he could build. To test his prototype of A DNA computer, Adelman posed a difficult mathematical challenge known as the traveling salesman problem. What is the shortest route among a group of cities not all of which are connected by a direct road that lets a salesman pass through each city exactly one?
Adelman chose to work with seven cities interconnected by 14 roads. He assigned a code to each city and to each possible leg of the tripe, for 21 unique sequences of nucleotides to represent all the factors involved in his problem. Then he mixed the snippets of DNA in solution and allowed them to react for a few days. To read the answer he simply analyzed the resulting DNA. The shortest strand that contained the codes for the intermediate stops represented the answer. On its first try the DNA computer solved its problems fast than any electronic computer could have done it even used less energy.
One problem with the system is the fact that DNA is prone to errors worse it took the DNA computer only moments to come up with its answer but it took Adelman a week to purify the DNA that held the salesman's route.
However such problems may soon be solved so far this technology is too new for us to make any firm prediction about where it will lead. In another five years though we should have a good idea of how well it is working out.