by Andre on 17 December 2007
We first posted about Paul Rothemund when he published his big DNA origami paper [pdf] back in March 2006. It was a really nice result not because he was the first to make cool DNA patterns, but because the method he developed was so general: by designing short staple strands he could make a long strand of viral DNA assemble into arbitrary patterns and proved this pretty convincingly by making happy faces and a pretty accurate world map (among other things).
I just saw this week that he also gave a talk at TED last March. It’s just five minutes and he does a nice job of explaining the principle behind his work. He also puts it in an interesting context. He points out that using a computer to program an arbitrary pattern that then assembles by itself in a test tube is a lot like casting a spell in that the right set of instructions take material form. Of course, the spells are still very longwinded and require a lot of intervention, but it’s a provocative thought.