Use Steganography by Printed Arrays of Microbes For Secret Messages!
Steganography by printed arrays of microbes is a unique means of sending secret messages that would have amazed Edgar Allen Poe, who lived his entire life thinking invisible ink was cool.
Manuel Palacios, a chemist at Tufts University in Medford Massachusetts, and his colleagues took a simpler approach by encrypting messages using seven strains of Escherichia coli bacteria. Each one was engineered to produce a different fluorescent protein, which glows in a different colour under the right light.
"We really wanted to use easily observable traits," says Palacios. Techniques such as Venter's require sophisticated equipment to sequence the DNA and unlock the message. "In our case, light-emitting diodes and an iPhone would do," notes Palacios.
Colonies of bacteria are grown in rows of paired spots, every combination of two colours corresponding to a different letter, digit or symbol. For example, two yellow spots signify a 't', whereas an orange and a green spot denote a 'd'. Once grown, the pattern of colonies is imprinted onto a nitrocellulose sheet, which is posted in an envelope. The recipient can use the sheet to regrow the bacteria in the same pattern and decipher the message.
By choosing the right E. coli strains, people could send messages that appear after specific periods of time, or slowly degenerate like the self-destructing memos from the television programme and film series Mission: Impossible.
Palacios has also developed ways to turn antibiotics into keys that unlock the hidden messages, by linking the genes for the fluorescent proteins to the ability to resist specific antibiotics.
In his recently published 2011 novel Spiral, Paul McEuen uses a similar idea to present a message using genetically modified fungi.
The three [fungi] symbols glowed, pulsing. She studied them closely. [Liam] must have worked very hard to get them to turn on and off like that. It was a biological feedback loop, she knew. Express the green fluorescent protein pathway from the Aequorea victoria jellyfish, then have that expression induce the creation of a suppressor that would turn it off...
The red. A long pulse, then two shorter.
The green one. A long pulse, then short.
The yellow. A short pulse, followed by a longer one.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 10/15/2011)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 1 )
Related News Stories -
Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.' - Peter Watts, 1999.
NASA's Prototype Lunar Greenhouse For Mars And Moon
'In contrast to the airless desolation outside, the interior of this five-acre greenhouse was the one most desirable place to be.' - Raymond Z. Gallun, 1951.
Researchers Say 'Biohybrid Robot' - Clarke Said 'Biot'
'... The biological robots were not living creatures.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1972.
Unique DNA To Foil Parts Counterfeiters
'... the only molecule, a unique protein amino acid, which could not be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1965.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'
NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'
ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'
Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'
Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'
Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'
Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'
Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.
NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'
Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.
Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'
MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'
Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'
Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'
WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'
Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories