This Strain of E. Coli Can Solve Sudoku Puzzles

Some strains of the intestinal bacterium E. coli can kill you. This one can solve Sudoku puzzles. I don't know which one is scarier.

And you thought it would be robots that would murder us all and take our place! Turns out, it might be super-logical E. coli strains. According to New Scientist, Scientists in Japan have managed to "program" a strain of E. coli, the bacterium famous for its periodic outbreaks in our foodstuffs (but which is found in most animals' intestinal tracts and is only rarely harmful to humans), to solve Sudoku. Making it, right off the bat, smarter than I am.

How does the little rod-shaped bacterium solve a Sudoku puzzle? Essentially, a colony of E. coli is placed in each square on a Sudoku grid—let's say a four-by-four grid. The colonies can "express" one of four colors, which, if we're playing Sudoku, would correspond to a number; some of the colonies are encouraged to take on one number, providing the grid with starting values.

The bacteria can then "communicate" with other colonies by sending RNA recombinases inside viruses, which, thanks to the scientists' genetic programming, are only accepted from colonies in the same rows and columns. The colonies are forbidden from taking on the same value as colonies they're receiving these "packages" from, and through a process of elimination, "solve" the grid.

Which, wow! I mean, not that I'm jealous, but obviously, they're not using "logic" or "problem-solving" in quite the same way we are, so they're not that much smarter than me. And, also, I'd like to see them solve the Saturday Times crossword.

[New Scientist; image via Shutterstock]