Bacteria Are Gamers Too: E.coli Solves Sudoku, Zombie Apocalypse Imminent

In the science world's game of "what if" brinkmanship, the race to make bacteria better at games is one we just didn't see coming. Run, run while you still can. And touch nothing. NOTHING!

In the science world's game of "what if" brinkmanship, the race to make bacteria better at games is one we just didn't see coming. Run, run while you still can. And touch nothing. NOTHING!
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In a charming news item which can only be a pre-cursor to the zombie apocalypse, a group of students from Tokyo University have developed a strain of Escherichia coli bacteria (E.coli) which can solve logic puzzles.

By manipulating DNA of of E.coli, individual colonies of bacteria can be programmed to behave in a selective manner in order to respond to their environment. As explained by New Scientist:

“The team begins with 16 types of E. coli, each colony assigned a distinct genetic identity depending on which square it occupied within a four-by-four sudoku grid. The bacteria can also express one of four colours to represent the numerical value of their square. As with any sudoku puzzle, a small number of the grid squares are given a value from the beginning by encouraging the bacteria in these squares to differentiate and take on one of the four colours.”

Essentially, the E. coli are playing a tiny MMO where each colony has to interact with one another in specific ways in order to win the game. As incredible as this seems, it is only the beginning and soon there will likely be a host of diseases demanding to play games.

  • H5N1 Avian Influenza will be addicted to Angry Birds
  • Necrotising Fasciitis will develop a taste for Tomb Raider
  • SARS will insist on playing everything with Darth Vader in it
  • Norovirus will absolutely love World of Goo
  • Legionnaire’s Disease will be ace at World of (Water) Tanks

Then, having learned everything they need to know about human nature and military tactics, they’ll figure out how to control the human body like a video game avatar and that’ll be the end. Game over. Zombie Apocalypse. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Excuse me whilst I go deep clean my life…

Image credits:

E.coli Finger – Wikipedia

Zombies – Shaun of the Dead (via The Telegraph)

About the author

Mat Westhorpe

Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.