Biological computers

03 Oct 1994 12:00

In three senses:

  1. Living things --- or parts thereof --- which in some sense do computations already. Presumably most of this happens in nervous systems. I've just read a very convincing illustration of this,
    Bill Baird, "Nonlinear Dynamics of Pattern Formation and Pattern Recognition in the Rabbit Olfactory Bulb," Physica 22D (1986) 150-175
    and feel keenly my wasted youth, since Dr. Baird is in the Berkeley Biophysics dept...
  2. Computers could be made from organic materials --- cultured nerve or immune cells, for instance. High Technology ran some articles on this oh, nearly ten years ago, but since then I've heard nothing about it, until Adleman started using DNA on the travelling salesman problem.
  3. Computers could have designs inspired by biology, like neural networks or evolution. (Recommended: Sejnowski and Churchland, "Computation in the Era of Neuroscience," in Metropolis and Rota (eds.), A New Era in Computation (MIT, 1992).)