Escherichia Coli is more commonly known as the scourge of improperly-prepared fastfood, but in reality they're not as bad as the more pathogenic strains make them out to be. We actually play host to these microbes at any given time, and they're part of a balanced digestive system. In fact, we might be asking these guys to help us with more than just digestion, like say, working on your Sunday puzzles.
A team of Japanese scientists have engineered some e.coli strains to solve, of all things, a sudoku puzzle. They start off with 16 distinct batches, each assigned to a specific square in a four-by-four grid. The colonies then communicate with their neighbors through RNA packets encoded into viruses. Theoretically, it would take 81 strains to solve a nine-by-nine grid.
The entire process allows the bacteria to solve a given puzzle almost immediately, at a speed that's blazingly fast compared to humans and their pencils. It's an interesting way to apply the not-so-recent concept of bacterial computing. We wonder what's next for the University of Tokyo team: Will Shortz' crosswords?
[source: New Scientist]