Is There Nothing E. coli Cannot Do? Part Three of a Continuing Series…

Blogs are abuzz with the news that E. coli can solve classic math puzzles like the Burnt Pancake Puzzle. The paper itself is available for free here.

Judging from the Frankensteinian anxiety this news seems to be triggering, people must think that life is normally not capable of the logic that we’re familiar with in computers. In fact, however, E. coli was carrying out a natural sort of computation long before some undergrads starting tinkering with it. In Microcosm, I show how the genes that build E. coli’s flagella act like a noise filter circuit. (Here’s a new paper on the digital control in E. coli.) What’s interesting about the Burnt-Pancake E. coli is that it’s solving our problems, not its own.