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July 1, 2010 / Martijn

The Challenge of Molecular Communication

Claude Shannon, perhaps the greatest unsung hero of 20th century science, laid out the fundamental problem of communication in the 1940s. He said the basic task in communication is to reproduce at one point in space a message that has been created at another.

Shannon went on to determine, among other things, how much information can be sent from A to B through a noisy channel. Today, his work is the foundation of information science and has had a profound impact on our world. TV, radio, mobile phones, computing, the internet: none of these things would be possible without Shannon’s pioneering ideas.

Since then almost all the thinking about information transmission has focused on electromagnetic communication–0s and 1s transmitted by electric fields or electromagnetic waves.

And yet for billions of years on Earth, most communication has occurred in an entirely different way, by the transmission and reception of molecules. Bacteria, for example, exchange chemical signals to estimate their local population, a process known as quorum sensing. This kind of bacterial social networking has recently gained much attention.

via Technology Review: Blogs: arXiv blog: The Challenge of Molecular Communication.

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