Playing Doom on a Bioluminescent Bacterial Display: A 600-Year Gaming Marathon

  • Desmond Goodwin

In an era where the iconic first-person shooter Doom has been made to run on calculators and even pregnancy tests, a novel concept has emerged out of MIT, pushing the boundaries of bioengineering and gaming. In what seems like a cross between a science fiction premise and a gamer's wild fantasy, an ambitious bioengineer has conceptualized a living display using bioluminescent E. coli bacteria to output Doom. While this might sound like the stuff of dreams (or nightmares), the project is a serious exploration into the fusion of biology and technology.

The main part of this intriguing experiment involves a grid array of meticulously arranged bacterial cells forming a rudimentary 1-bit display. Bacteria brightness is controlled through a genetic switch that toggles their bioluminescence. This setup renders the classic gaming visuals with a certain glow that is sure to mesmerize any spectator, albeit at a glacial pace. Each frame successfully displayed is not a matter of milliseconds but hours, congealing the gameplay into a slow-motion tableau that unfolds over centuries.

What seems like a trivial pursuit is actually a testament to human ingenuity and the relentless push of the boundaries of possibility. While you would certainly need a standard computer to process the game's data, the E. coli cells serve as an output screen—one so slow that seeing the end credits of Doom would stretch over a span of centuries. This project, although not practical for actual gaming, invigorates conversations around unconventional uses of biological systems and their potential in computing and display technologies.

The researcher's work culminates not only in a theoretical proposition but also a demonstration, with a video animation giving a glimpse into what this snail-paced gaming would look like. Though it is unlikely that anyone will earnestly undertake the quest to beat Doom on this living display, the research paves the way for further investigations into biological systems' capabilities as computational and display mechanisms.

In conclusion, while playing Doom on an E. coli-powered display is far from being the next gaming sensation, the concept itself is a fascinating foray into the unknown possibilities that lie at the intersection of biological science and technology. It invites us to reimagine the future of computing, where living organisms could carry out functions we typically reserve for electronic systems. As outlandish as it may seem, this project symbolizes the profound potential and creativity inherent in scientific inquiry—an endeavor that continually dares to challenge the status quo for the sheer sake of innovation.

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