Thursday, January 24, 2013
In theory, and in practice, it could be any information. Even your photo.
Shall I Encode Thee In DNA? Sonnets Stored On Double Helix : NPR:
"They started with a text file of one of Shakespeare's sonnets. In the computer's most basic language, it existed as a series of zeroes and ones. With a simple cipher, the scientists translated these zeroes and ones into the letters of DNA.
And then they did the same for the rest of Shakespeare's sonnets, an audio clip of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and a picture of their office. They sent that code off to Agilent Technologies, a biotech company. Agilent synthesized the DNA and mailed it back to Goldman.
"My first reaction was that they hadn't done it properly, because they sent me these little tiny test tubes that were quite clearly empty," Goldman says.
But the DNA was there — tiny specks at the bottom of the tubes. To read the sonnets, they simply sequenced the DNA and ran their cipher backward. All the files were 100 percent intact and accurate."
( 'Agilent Technologies' is in fact HP spinoff, a electronics instruments technology company,
and can apparently also do biotech! )
If you took everything human beings have ever written — an estimated 50 billion megabytes of text — and stored it in DNA, that DNA would still weigh less than a granola bar.
"There's no problem with holding a lot of information in DNA," Goldman says. "The problem is paying for doing that."
Agilent waived the cost of DNA synthesis for this project, but the researchers estimate it would normally cost about $12,400 per megabyte.