Off once again into the wild blue yonder. So today a quiz, inspired by the Cnet article whose over-stated title is “Researchers build DNA neural network that thinks.”
The piece was a review of the paper “Neural network computation with DNA strand displacement cascades” by Qian, Winfree, and Bruck.
Here, building on the richness of DNA computing14 and strand displacement circuitry, we show how molecular systems can exhibit autonomous brain-like behaviours. Using a simple DNA gate architecture16 that allows experimental scale-up of multilayer digital circuits, we systematically transform arbitrary linear threshold circuits (an artificial neural network model) into DNA strand displacement cascades that function as small neural networks.
They made a brain in a bottle composed of about a hundred neurons, designed for the special purpose of playing a quiz game:
The team trained the neural network to play a memory game in which it would correctly “identify” four scientists based on specific yes or no questions–for instance whether the scientist was British.
Players dropped DNA strands representing an incomplete set of answers into a test tube. The network then provides the answer–the identity of the correct scientist–by fluorescent signals.
When presented with 27 different ways of answering the questions, the DNA “brain” responded correctly each time.
The game is thus like twenty (or twenty-seven) questions, with the focus of trying to discover whether the scientist is British.
Here’s our quiz: think of the shortest list of yes-no questions you can ask to discover whether a scientist is British. Puns are acceptable. Good luck!
My solution to the twenty-questions is below, but hidden by an HTML comment. If you open this page’s source code, look for the word “SOLUTION.” Don’t reveal what this is in the comments below; I’ll reveal it tomorrow.