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 -
Data Crystals Offer Eternal Storage
'The books were crystals with recorded contents...' - Stanislaw Lem, 1961.
Storing 1 Zettabyte In 10 Grams
'It is theoretically possible to have a matrix in which each individual molecule has a meaning...'- Robert Heinlein, 1951.
Six Terabyte Solid State Drive Just 2.5 Inches
'A man or woman could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres...'
Revault Wearable Private Cloud Is Too Vaporous
'A man or woman could carry AIs or complete planetary dataspheres...'- Dan Simmons, 1989.
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.
Brick By Brick, Building Martian Bases
Don't try to boost everything from the surface of the Earth.
SpotMini Robot Pierson's Puppeteer-Style
Now they're kind of cute, right?
Elon Musk et. al. OpenAI Household Robot
'Any work a human being does around a house.'
BRUISE Smart Injury Detection Suit
'... Bee could see that three of them were disabled and two of them damaged.'
Tesla Model S Is Also A Boat (Sort Of)
'This Dick Dare contraption of yours...'
Promobot, The Runaway Russian Robot!
'Got yourself a runaway, Jack?'
Rowbot Small Autonomous Farm Robot
'...The tiny red glints of self-guided tractors.'
Amazon's Alexa To Recognize Emotions
Oh, Hal understood their emotions, all right.
Cool 'Single-Person Spaceships' Have Better SF Name
'A cabin so small, you couldn't stand up with the air lock closed..'
First Robot Suicide Has Science Fiction Roots
'What had happened to prevent my death?'
First US Clinical Trial For Wearable Artificial Kidney
'Wholly mechanical organs...'
Open Bionics To Produce Deus Ex Prosthetic Designs
Be a part of a science fictional future.
Human-Carrying Drone Taxi 184 Approved For Test Flights
'The cab was an egg-shaped bubble...'
Skating On Mars' Frozen Pools
'They went down, put on their skates, and started.'
Google Working On A 'Cutoff Switch' For AI
'A remote control, so you can pull the plug on Hal whenever you want to.'
Vi Artificially Intelligent Personal Trainer
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories