SNS: The Ultimate Biocomputer: Brain or Cell? Part II


Volume 18, Issue 5
Week of February 2, 2015

In This Issue
Feature: The Ultimate Biocomputer: Brain or Cell? Part II

  • The Real Story of Cells
  • Zooming Down Through Layers of Complexity
  • Complexity Through Multitasking
  • The Cell As Computer
  • The Cytoskeleton
  • The 3D WBSS Computer / Manufacturing Platform
  • The Many RNAs
  • Things About RNA That Should Blow Your Mind
  • From Computer to Network to Computer
  • The Real Brain-Inspired Compute Environment

Quotes of the Week
Takeout Window

  • Cell Signaling Maps

Upgrades and Numbers

  • Samsung Korea: The Copier Gets Copied


The cell is often portrayed improperly, in terms of parts, size, and dynamic processes. In starter classes, it is often displayed as a static thing with outsized parts one can memorize: nucleus, mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum.

Students of all ages recall these things, with their one-paragraph descriptors, much in the vein of “the mitochondria supply energy to the cell via ATP; they are the cell’s little power plants. “On this rudimentary level of understanding (which is about all I had, leaving Stanford in earlier days), the cell is seen as being relatively simple. The prevailing dogma goes something like this: DNA is a double-stranded molecule containing the instructions for life RNA copies these instructions, and runs over to the endoplasmic reticulum, where, using ribosomes, it makes proteins, which, acting as catalysts, run the cellular machine. Mitochondria provide the energy for all of this, via ATP molecules, and mitosis occurs when cells need to start over again, by dividing. The cell is a kind of wet bag of stuff, enclosed in a membrane made of lipids and other things, which lets some things in and some out.

For most of us who were exposed to this level of education, it might be best just to wipe the blackboard clean and start over again. Yes, all of the above descriptions are essentially true; they are just drastically incomplete. So, let’s reboot: 

View more topics in the Pure Science channel.