Laboratory for Molecular Science






The Laboratory for Molecular Science no longer exists, and this website is no longer being maintained. The website will stay online, in the hope that the content may prove useful.




Three billion years of evolution have left us with an untapped legacy, a tool-chest for the 21st century: the cell. The cell is full of wondrous molecules. Molecules that store information, molecules that store energy, molecules that act like motors, molecules that act like structural material, molecules that cut and molecules that paste... There are thousands of these molecules in the cell. Each is incredibly small (a few nano-meters in each dimension), each is extraordinarily precise and ultra-specific, each functions with an energy efficiency that is on the cusp of what is thermodynamically feasible. Thanks to the recent efforts of molecular biologists, these tools are being taken from the cell and made commercially available at an extraordinarily low price. Take DNA. It is a wonderful way to store information - it has been storing the “blueprint for life” for several billion years. One gram of DNA, which would occupy about 1 cubic centimeter when dry, can hold as much information as approximately one trillion CDs. One can write down a sequence of A, T, C and Gs, email it to a DNA synthesizer and receive the next day a tube containing about 1017molecules each with the requested sequence. For a sequence of length 20, the cost is about $30 - that’s about 30 femptocents (a femptocent is 1 one-thousand-trillionth of a cent) per molecule. Another example is polymerase. This is a protein that acts like a juggler on a tightrope. It ‘hops’ onto a strand of DNA, ‘walks’ down it and ‘reads’ its sequence; all the while, it is ‘reaching’ into the surrounding solution, ‘grabbing’ new A, T, C and Gs and sticking them together to form a new strand of DNA that is Watson-Crick complementary to the strand it started with.

We do not have the technology to build such amazing ‘nano-machines’ ourselves. But evolution has given us thousands of them. So here it is, the most amazing tool-chest you have ever seen. Better than your erector set, better than your Lego set. We know it is a great tool-chest, because it was used to build you and me. And even though we are very clumsy in our use of the tools right now, and even though molecular biology has made only a small portion of them available to us so far, we can already use them to build a computer. And if you can build a computer, then presumably many other exciting things can be built. So, this is the challenge of molecular science: take the tools and build something great.


Topics of Interest

Solution of a 20 Variable 3-SAT Problem on a DNA Computer -- PDF format

Solution of a 20 Variable 3-SAT Problem on a DNA Computer -- Science Magazine

Sequence Generation Software for 'Solution of a 20-Variable 3-SAT Problem on a DNA computer'


April 24, 2003
Nature: "Physicists Plunder Life's Tool Chest"

April 14, 2003: The New York Times: Turing Award

March 19, 2002: The New York Times: DNA Based Computer

March 18, 2002: The Washington Post (online): DNA Based Computer

March 14, 2002: USC




To see a 1 hr streaming video on molecular science presented by Dr. Leonard Adleman at the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley click here.


To see a 20 minute video on molecular science presented by Dr. Leonard Adleman titled "The Tiniest Treasure Chest" click on the following two media options: real media   windows media


To read a 1996 NETworker interview with Dr. Leonard Adleman, click here



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