DNA data storage: 100 million hours of HD video in every cup

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Biological systems have been using DNA as an information storage molecule for billions of years. Vast amounts of data can thus be encoded within microscopic volumes, and we carry the proof of this concept in the cells of our own bodies.

Could this ultimate storage solution meet the ever-growing needs of archivists in this age of digital information?

This dream has come a step closer to reality with the publication of a new technique in this week’s edition of the scientific journalNature.

Stored in DNA

A team of researchers headed by Nick Goldman and Ewan Birney at the European Bioinformatics Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL-EBI) has dramatically demonstrated the potential of the technique to store and transport human-made data.

Their data included some well-chosen iconic elements: Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, an audio excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, Watson and Crick’s  classic paper on the structure of DNA, and a colour photograph of the European Bioinformatics Institute.

These files, in common digital formats found on almost every desktop computer, were encoded byte-by-byte as DNA molecules, shipped from the USA to Germany without specialised packaging, and finally decoded back into their original electronic formats.

Although the study involved less than a megabyte of data in total, this is already orders of magnitude more than has previously been encoded as synthesised DNA.

Written By: Jonathan Keith
continue to source article at theconversation.edu.au

10 COMMENTS

  1. That was a pretty pointless title, Like how big is the cup? How is the DNA packed in the cup, (so that an individual bit/nibble of data can be found?). Reminds me of the infinite capacity disk drive invented in the 80′s, unfortunately it was a write-only disc.

    (4 bits or half a byte is called a nibble, as DNA is a quad-system).

  2. In reply to #1 by old-toy-boy:

    That was a pretty pointless title, Like how big is the cup?

    I assumed they referred to the American unit of measurement, but it still doesn’t make a lot of sense. The point of headlines above articles like this is to draw readers in though, not to give a accurate summary.

  3. Out of curiosity I googled USB 3.0 Flash Drives, and being introduced is a 1tb unit, 73 x 27 x 21mm in size, so you could fit about 10tb in a coffee cup if they were packaged for that.

    My first 1982 PC had 128 mb, and I thought I’d never fill it up!! Thankfully my 30,000 files only use 25gb and 40gb total, since I’m not a graphics or gamer guy.

    With only a 160gb PC, 250gb external drive and 32gb stick – should I feel undersized and socially inadequate now? 8-)

  4. In reply to #4 by CdnMacAtheist:

    Out of curiosity I googled USB 3.0 Flash Drives, and being introduced is a 1tb unit, 73 x 27 x 21mm in size, so you could fit about 10tb in a coffee cup if they were packaged for that.

    My first 1982 PC had 128 mb, and I thought I’d never fill it up!! Thankfully my 30,000 files only use 25gb and 40gb total, since I’m not a graphics or gamer guy.

    With only a 160gb PC, 250gb external drive and 32gb stick – should I feel undersized and socially inadequate now? 8-)

    128Mb in 1982? really??! I was proud of the fact i had a 16K rampack on my ZX81 and gasping in amazement at my friend telling me a computer whith a whole megabyte of storage had been invented

  5. In reply to #6 by SaganTheCat:

    In reply to #4 by CdnMacAtheist:Out of curiosity I googled USB 3.0 Flash Drives, and being introduced is a 1tb unit, 73 x 27 x 21mm in size, so you could fit about 10tb in a coffee cup if they were packaged for that.My first 1982 PC had 128 mb, and I thought I’d never fill it up!! Thankfully my 30,000 files only use 25gb and 40gb total, since I’m not a graphics or gamer guy.With only a 160gb PC, 250gb external drive and 32gb stick – should I feel undersized and socially inadequate now? 8-)128Mb in 1982? really??! I was proud of the fact i had a 16K rampack on my ZX81 and gasping in amazement at my friend telling me a computer whith a whole megabyte of storage had been invented

    Than makes me wonder about an area in which capacity has reduced over time. Back in my student days when I was more energetic and virile it would still have taken me considerable time to fill even a small cup with genetic material, but I suppose having the right DVD would have helped. Of course in those days it would have been a video cassette. I don’t think I could have managed it with just Shakespeare’s sonnets or Watson and Crick’s paper to inspire me. But, hey, to each his or her own.

  6. In reply to #7 by headswapboy:

    In reply to #6 by SaganTheCat:

    In reply to #4 by CdnMacAtheist:Out of curiosity I googled USB 3.0 Flash Drives, and being introduced is a 1tb unit, 73 x 27 x 21mm in size, so you could fit about 10tb in a coffee cup if they were packaged for that.My first 1982 PC had 128 mb, and I thought I’d never fill it up!! Thankfully my 30,000 files only use 25gb and 40gb total, since I’m not a graphics or gamer guy.With only a 160gb PC, 250gb external drive and 32gb stick – should I feel undersized and socially inadequate now? 8-)128Mb in 1982? really??! I was proud of the fact i had a 16K rampack on my ZX81 and gasping in amazement at my friend telling me a computer whith a whole megabyte of storage had been invented

    Than makes me wonder about an area in which capacity has reduced over time. Back in my student days when I was more energetic and virile it would still have taken me considerable time to fill even a small cup with genetic material, but I suppose having the right DVD would have helped. Of course in those days it would have been a video cassette. I don’t think I could have managed it with just Shakespeare’s sonnets or Watson and Crick’s paper to inspire me. But, hey, to each his or her own.

    if you’d been to the same vet as me you’d understand the true meaning of capacity reduction :o/

  7. 128Mb in 1982? really??! I was proud of the fact i had a 16K rampack on my ZX81 and gasping in amazement at my friend telling me a computer whith a whole megabyte of storage had been invented.

    Hi Sagan.

    You’re right, I checked Google, and it must have been 1986 when my then-missus added onto a batch purchase by London Life Insurance in Toronto and got our first IBM 386 SX25 PC, running WordPerfect. I’m a computer neanderthal, so not nerdy enough to know the exact details. Typically, my memory is still working ok, but my recall sucks. I’m a car nerd, so that stuff is much more accurate…. 8-) Mac.

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