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Science
THE MATERIAL WORLD
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Thursday 16:30-17:00
Quentin Cooper reports on developments across the sciences. Each week scientists describe their work, conveying the excitement they feel for their research projects.
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Listen to 16 November
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QUENTIN COOPER
Quentin Cooper
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Thursday 16 November 2006
Bioturbation
Bioturbation - luminophores being put on the sea-bed (credit: SERPENT Project)

Biocomputing

Biocomputing entails building computers out of biological molecules… DNA.

If you think about it, DNA has four bases Guanine, Adenosine, Thymine and Cytosine (GATC) which can used in a similar but more powerful way as 1’s and 0’s of the binary which is what silicon-based computers use today.

As these bases make up sequences that code for genes which make proteins which control biological systems, this is harnessed by the DNA computers to get them to perform calculations or to crate nanoscale biological machines.

So far millions have been invested in molecular computing and synthetic biology research. DNA, the code of life, now sits at the heart of experimental computers in labs around the world. Hybrid machines integrate living cells with silicon nanotubes and preparations are being made to create entirely new organisms, never seen before.

Quentin talks to Dr. Martyn Amos from the department of Computing and Mathematics at Manchester Metropolitan and author of ‘Genesis Machines: The New Science of Biocomputing’ (published 16th Nov 2006 and Professor Richard Jones, physicist at Sheffield University and an expert on nanotechnology.

He’ll be discussing these living computers and how humanity can benefit from this revolutionary new technology? What are the dangers? And what are the ethical implications?

Sediment analysis and charting the ocean’s organisms

The deep-sea environment is largely unexplored and many of the processes that govern life in the deep are poorly understood.

As the offshore oil industry is expanding its operational boundaries into new, deep-sea frontiers, it is increasingly important to gain an improved understanding of the associated impacts and how the ecosystems respond.

Quentin is joined by Dr Brian Bett, from The National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. He is working on the SERPENT Project in an attempt to find out how drilling impacts on the ecosystem.

Using remotely controlled vehicles he places fluorescent beads in the sediment which measure the impact of drilling and reveal the secrets of the deep.

Dr Adrian Glover, a researcher in the Zoology Department at The Natural History Museum, specialises in biodiversity, biogeography and environmental impacts in the deep sea.

He feels that finding out about ocean sediment is essential in terms of what is happening to the plant.

He tells Quentin about The Census of Marine Life, a ten year global initiative with the goal of cataloguing everything the lives in the ocean.

Over 70 nations are involved in assessing and explaining the diversity, distribution and abundance of marine life in the oceans, past present and future and how it changes over time.
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