We learned of the existence of bacteria over 300 years ago and we have far more of them in our bodies than human cells, but it was less than 40 years ago when we first realized how they swim. With the discovery of the rotary motor of E. coli in 1973, a motor just 45 nanometers in diameter, some claimed this incredible mechanism as evidence of God, though it is really just a step along the path of evolution. Now we can actually build nanorobots that swim similar to bacteria like E. coli. We’re working to use these to deliver drugs to specific locations in the body. E. coli itself is a kind of robot: it has sensors (chemoreceptors), motors, communication along protein guided pathways, and software (DNA). When we look at a bacterium from this perspective it seems like a machine, even one that we will be hopefully able to duplicate someday. So if bacteria are really just machines then what are we?
Bradley Nelson talks at TEDxZurich
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