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Mad Scientist Gets Doom Running on E. Coli Cells

For going on two decades, amateur programmers and professional scientists alike have engaged in an unending quest to get the game "Doom" to run on, well, everything.

Now, an MIT doctoral candidate has taken the Doom thing to a whole other level by getting it to run — sort of — on some E. coli cells.

In a video about her stunning accomplishment and its accompanying pre-peer-reviewed paper, MIT biotech student Lauren "Ren" Ramlan admitted that getting cells to actually play Doom "would be a behemoth feat that I cannot even imagine approaching."

Nevertheless, the mad scientist points out that it's acceptable "within the culture" of "Doom runs on everything," or DROE to those within said community, to have the game's characteristic 8-bit frames "displayed on the screen of a novel device" — and there are few screens more novel than Ramlan's gut bacteria cell arrays.

 

Although id Software, the company that owns Doom, released the game's source code back in 1997, it wasn't until nearly a decade later, in 2006, that the DROE culture really took off.

That September, as Know Your Meme recounts, a YouTube posting under the handle "KevlarGorilla" posted a video of Doom running on his Nintendo DS, and just a few months later, a British researcher one-upped him by getting it to run on an oscilloscope monitor. Thusly, the meme was born.

Inspired by researchers' incredible success in getting brain cells to "play" that other classic video game, "Pong," Ramlan explained that she achieved a similar outcome by getting individual cells on the array, which served as single pixels, to light up in the pattern of Doom frames using a fluorescent protein.

The MIT student then combined her bespoke genetic system with some bespoke Python code and let it rip — though in this case, rip may not be the right word, because it took about 70 minutes for the cells to illuminate and a whopping eight hours for return to a blank frame. To play an entire game of Doom at that rate, per Ramlan's calculations, it would take approximately 600 years.

Nevertheless, as the Doom wizard declared in her video, "this is an amazing finding, because it means we are a small handful of generations away from the peak of human engineering."

It's hard to argue with that science — though there have to be more efficient ways of playing Doom than, you know, via the gut biome.

More on bacterial shenanigans: Scientists Gene-Hack Bacteria to Turn Waste Plastic Into Kevlar-Like Spider Silk