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Soon, you too can become a flash drive.
January 24, 2013 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Scientists at the European Bioinformatics Institute successfully encoded several different file formats onto strands of synthetic DNA, which were then sent to an American lab and sequenced to extract the data. Selections included Shakespeare, audio of Dr. Martin Luther King, and photos of their lab. If the idea sounds vaguely familiar, you've probably been reading Dresden Codak.
posted by BZArcher (23 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've been saying, WE are somebody ELSE's long term data storage solution.
posted by notyou at 7:49 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know off hand how long it would take to sequence a strand of DNA containing a Dresden Codak comic? I wonder if it compares favorably with Dresden Codak's current update schedule.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Here is the actual paper, which I think is free access but I'm not sure from my institutional internet connection. If it isn't feel free to MeMail me with an email address I can send a PDF to - for the purposes of this academic discussion we are currently having of course.
Towards practical, high-capacity, low-maintenance information storage in synthesized DNA
Digital production, transmission and storage have revolutionized how we access and use information but have also made archiving an increasingly complex task that requires active, continuing maintenance of digital media. This challenge has focused some interest on DNA as an attractive target for information storage1 because of its capacity for high-density information encoding, longevity under easily achieved conditions2, 3, 4 and proven track record as an information bearer. Previous DNA-based information storage approaches have encoded only trivial amounts of information5, 6, 7 or were not amenable to scaling-up8, and used no robust error-correction and lacked examination of their cost-efficiency for large-scale information archival9. Here we describe a scalable method that can reliably store more information than has been handled before. We encoded computer files totalling 739 kilobytes of hard-disk storage and with an estimated Shannon information10 of 5.2ā€‰Ć—ā€‰106 bits into a DNA code, synthesized this DNA, sequenced it and reconstructed the original files with 100% accuracy. Theoretical analysis indicates that our DNA-based storage scheme could be scaled far beyond current global information volumes and offers a realistic technology for large-scale, long-term and infrequently accessed digital archiving. In fact, current trends in technological advances are reducing DNA synthesis costs at a pace that should make our scheme cost-effective for sub-50-year archiving within a decade.
The concept, published recently from a competing lab, previously
posted by Blasdelb at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the idea sounds vaguely familiar, you've probably been reading Dresden Codakalive some time after DNA was discovered to be a digital code.
posted by DU at 7:55 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I want to like Dresden Codak, and it looks really pretty, but I have a hell of a time following what's happening.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:01 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The important part for me was in the Guardian's coverage:
Asked whether the DNA might pose a danger to health, if it found its way into a person or other animal, Goldman said: "The DNA we've created can't be incorporated accidentally into a genome, it uses a completely different code to that used by the cells of living bodies. If you did end up with any of this DNA inside you it would just be degraded and disposed of."
posted by fight or flight at 8:03 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Remember the end of Fahrenheit 451? Screw every man a book, every human being a Library of Congress!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:11 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


When will the RIAA and MPAA be releasing statements denouncing this new era in piracy?
posted by tommasz at 8:21 AM on January 24, 2013


Like all the best ideas they came up with it in the pub.
posted by penguinliz at 8:22 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


DNA is more than just a "digital code". Marker activity (so-called "junk DNA") responds to external pressure in ways that aren't just binary. Anyway, modified DNA is probably going to build everything for us at some point.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:27 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




So I can soon rent out my own genetic material as a cloud storage resource? Cool -- retirement may be in the cards after all...
posted by VicNebulous at 8:38 AM on January 24, 2013


Is this something that my tinfoil hat will protect me from?
posted by jimmythefish at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2013


I've been saying, WE are somebody ELSE's long term data storage solution.

And you know what's stored?

42.
posted by Skeptic at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fun part about being a flash drive is the data transfer, if you know what I'm sayin'. *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*
posted by mazola at 9:08 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Hey baby, is that a USB drive in your pocket or are you just happy to see me, OR BOTH??
posted by Skygazer at 10:32 AM on January 24, 2013


Bring me my shotgun. Bring me my Adidas bag. Bring me my tennis socks. Bring me my room service. I am ready.
posted by wam at 10:44 AM on January 24, 2013


mazola: "The fun part about being a flash drive is the data transfer, if you know what I'm sayin'. *wink* *wink* *nudge* *nudge*"

A single sperm has 37.5MB of DNA information in it. That means that a normal ejaculation represents a data transfer of 1,587.5TB.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:27 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's some serious uploading...

Or is it downloading?

Or is it 'gettin' down' loading??

posted by Skygazer at 11:43 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


YES. I had carrying my gadgets externally and having parts of myself not connected. Could we synch this up to eyeball cams?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:39 PM on January 24, 2013


A single sperm has 37.5MB of DNA information in it. That means that a normal ejaculation represents a data transfer of 1,587.5TB.

Of course, when compressed, it would probably go back down to 100MB or so again.
posted by ymgve at 5:29 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


as long as it's lossless it's fine by me...please do not encode mp3s.
posted by j_curiouser at 6:53 PM on January 24, 2013


Speaking about losses, a wedding album accessed via something as minute as a speck of dust is going to be next to useless to a senior couple wanting to do reverie.

We'll never see this product on the shelves.
posted by de at 8:21 PM on January 24, 2013


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