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"Can [Fill-In-The-Blank] Run DOOM?" - The E. Coli Bacteria Edition

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Simulated 1-bit, 32x48 cellular grid runs at a blazing 0.00003 fps.




Here at Ars, we've covered versions of Doom running on everything from hacked printers to Windows' notepad.exe to a version running inside Doom itself. But these and the other many and varied examples of weird Doom platforms all lack the sheer biological oddness of a new model for displaying the game using a grid of E. coli bacteria.


MIT graduate student Lauren Ramlan outlines a method for creating the quixotic Doom display in "1-Bit Pixels Encoded in E. Coli for the Display of Interactive Digital Media," the final project for a Principles of Synthetic Biology class. Ramlan's project builds on earlier research describing how the DNA in E. coli bacteria can be used to encode full digital circuits and how the bacteria can be induced to fluoresce as a crude form of digital display.

Ramlan's paper doesn't go to the enormous trouble of actually encoding all of Doom to run in bacterial DNA, which the author describes as "a behemoth feat that I cannot even imagine approaching." Instead, the game runs on a standard computer, with isolated E. coli cells in a standard 32×48 microwell grid serving as a crude low-res display.




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