DNA As An Archival Storage System
DNA is really coming along as a digital storage device. George Church and Sri Kosuri create strands of DNA that store 96 bits (bases represent binary values [T and G = 1, A and C = 0]).
Once in storage, as many copies as you like can be created. Church stored a copy of one of his books - about 700 kilobytes of data - and then made 70 billion copies.
(DNA archival storage video)
To read the data stored in DNA, you simply sequence it — just as if you were sequencing the human genome — and convert each of the TGAC bases back into binary. To aid with sequencing, each strand of DNA has a 19-bit address block at the start (the red bits in the image below) — so a whole vat of DNA can be sequenced out of order, and then sorted into usable data using the addresses.
For long-term archival storage, DNA is a pretty good medium, although the read/write cycle takes a bit longer than your typical SSD. And just think: about four grams of DNA theoretically could store the digital data humankind creates in one year.
Fantasy writer Barbara Hambly uses a similar idea in her 1982 Darwath trilogy. She describes how wizards succeeded in tying information to the DNA of selected individuals.
In the story, several people from 1980's California find themselves transported across the Void to another planet and the Realm of Darwath. They face a deadly species of queerly magical beings - the Dark - who destroyed civilization thousands of years ago. Everything that was made of paper (like books and records) were burned to stave off attacks by the Dark. Tying memories to a few suitable bloodlines was the only way to preserve a record of that period that would endure.
Church and Kosuri, on the other hand, reject the idea of using the DNA of living cells:
Although other projects have encoded data in the DNA of living bacteria, the Church team used commercial DNA microchips to create standalone DNA. “We purposefully avoided living cells,” Church said. “In an organism, your message is a tiny fraction of the whole cell, so there’s a lot of wasted space. But more importantly, almost as soon as a DNA goes into a cell, if that DNA doesn’t earn its keep, if it isn’t evolutionarily advantageous, the cell will start mutating it, and eventually the cell will completely delete it.”
SF writers have long wished for high density data storage, of whatever medium. Consider the Schrön Loop from Dan Simmons' 1989 novel Hyperion and the memory diamond from Charles Stross' 2004 novel Iron Sunrise.
Via ExtremeTech and Harvard.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 8/18/2012)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )
Related News Stories -
Samsung 840 Evo 1TB Solid-State Drive
'A man or woman could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres in a Schrön loop.'- Dan Simmons, 1989.
One Terabyte Thumbdrive - DataTraveler HyperX Predator 3.0
'The Schrön loop was tiny, no larger than my thumbnail, and very expensive.'- Dan Simmons, 1989.
DNA Data Storage Is Robust, Scalable
What knowledge would we seek to pass down the ages, encoded in life's DNA?
Hybrid Memory Cube Is Speedy And Compact
'One Welton fine-grain memory cube would record all I could say over the next ten years...'- Robert Heinlein, 1973.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Physicists Build Repulsor / Tractor Beam
'Brandon swung mighty tractor beams upon the severed halves of the Jovian vessel...'
High Fidelity Produces More Expressive Avatars!
'They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other...'
Will You Upload Your Mind Anytime Soon?
And if so, how long will the copy last?
Students! NASA Wants To 3D Print Your Tool Design In Space!
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'
Amazing ARES Augmented Reality Sandbox
'First he showed him where the input and output of his brand-new kingdom were, and how to program wars...'
'3D Light Sculpture' Projected Directly Onto Retina
'...projects directly on the retina of the eye…'
3D Printer Vending Machine Dispenses Dreams
'Nanofax AG offers a technology that digitally reproduces objects, physically, at a distance.'
Why Not Nurse Grandma With A Robot?
'She's made of a combination of springs, levers, acoustic instruments...'
Flock Of Minisats Will Image The Earth
'We... dropped roughly a thousand eyes on Beta Hydri IV.'
Should Robots Have Civil Rights?
'I've seen things... you people wouldn't believe...'
Robert Heinlein, Your Self-Driving Car Is Almost Ready!
'Mary Risling settled back for a little nap...'
The Manned Maneuvering Unit Story
'Little spurts of red-orange flame from the reaction pistol marked his companion's trail...'
Scheherazade, An Open Story Generator
'How can you compete with an IBM heavy-duty logomatic analogue?'
Sample The In Vitro Meat Cookbook
'I grabbed two Syntho-Steaks out of the freezer...'
'Diamond Nanothreads' Now, Someday Space Elevators?
'It is a continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal'
Erased Memories In A Flash Of Light
'Someone, probably at a government military-sciences lab, erased his conscious memories...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories