Saturday March 11, 2017

Scientists stored an Amazon gift card on some DNA

(CBC)

Listen 7:36

As humanity is generating data at a rate that may soon exceed the capacity of traditional magnetic storage systems, scientists wanted to experiment using nature's tried and true information storage system - DNA.  

One of those scientists, Dr. Yaniv Erlich, an assistant professor of Computer Science at Columbia University in New York, says DNA is the ideal storage medium because it has been successful for over 3 billion years, it is compact, and is unlikely to become obsolete like so many other storage systems.  

In his experiment, six files were chosen to be encoded onto four base nucleotides of just 2 megabytes of synthetic DNA. Those files included a 50 second movie, a photograph, a computer operating system, a computer virus, a scientific research paper, and an Amazon gift card.  

IMG_9057

It's estimated that 215 petabytes of data can be stored on a single gram of DNA. That's equivalent to all data ever generated by humans fitting in the back of a car like this prototype of the1966 AMC AMX 'Ramble Seat.' (Christopher Ziemnowicz)

Modern sequencing technology was then used to decipher the DNA strands and retrieve the original files with no errors.  Using this coding technique, it's estimated that 215 petabytes (1 PB = 1,000,000,000,000,000 Bytes or 10 to the power of 15 bytes) of data can be stored on a single gram of DNA.  

That's equivalent to the data in two rooms full of hard drives being stored on a single drop of water, or all data ever generated by humans fitting in the back of a car!

This is the film that was encoded to synthetic DNA:

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