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.

Update 15-Apr-2017: See the Heritable Memories Bloodline from The Time of the Dark (1982) by Barbara Hambly. End update.

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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 0 )

Related News Stories - (" Data Storage ")

Twist Bioscience High Density Digital Data On DNA
'They tied the memory to the bloodline and that was their record!' - Barbara Humbly, 1982.

Store One Bit On One Atom
'...each individual molecule has a meaning.' - Robert Heinlein, 1951.

DataTraveler Ultimate Generation 2 Terabyte Flashdrive
'A man or woman could carry AIs or complete planetary data spheres...' - Dan Simmons, 1989.

Sandisk 1 Terabyte SD Memory Card Surfaces
'They should be Welton Fine-Grains, or they would be too bulky to ship...' - Robert Heinlein, 1973.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

Bat Bot Robotic Flapping-Wing Drone
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread...'

NASA's Astronaut Rescue Ball
'Ball and closely-prisoned man plummeted downward..'

ARM Wants To Build Brain Chips
'Slivers of microsoft, angular fragments of colored silicon...'

Sky Fence - A Drone-Proof Shield Created Over Prison
'There’s still a protective field over the whole thing. It volatilizes anything that tries to get through.'

Geoengineering The Atmosphere For Climate Change
'...a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.'

Archinaut Orbiting Robotic Factory
'mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Cryonic Preservation - The Last Perk You'll Ever Need
'Is there not also a law providing for voluntary suspension of animation?'

Computers Understand Humans By Watching And Modeling Them
Soon, your computer will be watching you... and judging you.

NASA Asks For Moon To Earth Delivery Ideas
'Authority's 3-g catapult was almost one hundred kilometers long...'

Musk Tunnels Wisely Restrict Drivers
Too many robots.

Robot Swarms Controlled With Augmented Reality
'You're not thinking in enough dimensions...'

MIT's C-LEARN Helps Robots Transfer Learning To Other Robots
'Talk Between Robots radio...'

Mini-Brains In A Dish
'Cultured brains on a slab.'

Rapid Automated Search For Habitable Planets Needed
'I was near enough it now to set my automatic astronomical instruments to searching it for a habitable planet.'

WatchSense Perfect For Fat-Fingered Smartwatch Owners
'Now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components...'

Digital Construction Platform Robot 3D Prints A Building
'It extrudes material like a spider.'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.