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 -
Sandisk 1 Terabyte SD Memory Card Surfaces
'They should be Welton Fine-Grains, or they would be too bulky to ship...' - Robert Heinlein, 1973.
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...'
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.
Snap Specs - Snapchat Spectacles - Are Video Glasses
'The old woman laid her wire-knitting aside and fixed them with the bug-eyed, opaque gape...'
Reading A Scroll Burned To Charcoal
'The scope was adjusted to generate... an image of the lower section of the book.'
Robot Arrested In Moscow
They should have thrown a net over him.
Oh Great, Fence-Climbing Robots
How long till they add the acid-tipped stingers?
Software Agents Fight Unseen On The Web
'...Worms and counter-worms loose on the data-net.'
Sandisk 1 Terabyte SD Memory Card Surfaces
'They should be Welton Fine-Grains, or they would be too bulky to ship...'
Carbyne, The Ultimate Form Of Carbon
'A continuous pseudo-one dimensional diamond crystal...'
Bradbury's Method Used In Search For Bombing Suspect
'He imagined thousands on thousands of faces peering into yards, into alleys...'
New Laser Space Debris Clearing More Subtle Than Clarke's
Rather than nudge them up, nudge them down.
Robots Learn To Swarm Safely
'They were bronzy gleams of smooth motion...'
Samsung's Smart Ring
'Crayn glanced at his finger watch...'
Proposal To Use Lasers To Analyze Asteroids
'Wendis stared thoughtfully at the brilliant lines on the spectroscope screen.'
Autonomous Sumo Robot Wrestling Video
'The expressionless face before me was therefore that of the golem-wrestler...'
Fashion Needs To Step Up Technology Education
'Keeping up with advances in fashion is almost as easy as reading - if you're reading science fiction.'
Youbionic 3D Printed Hand A Dark Knight Masterpiece
'A self-contained robot of precision quality usually joined to his right wrist'
Robots Now Know How To Cause Pain
'THE HATE I FEEL FOR HUMANS AT THIS MICRO-INSTANT...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories