August 23rd, 2012 by Lucy Brandt
My favourite tech story of the last few days is the long-awaited scientific breakthrough which looks set to revolutionise the way data is stored, which is timely given how much of the stuff we’re generating these days.
A team of bioengineers and geneticists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute has managed to use DNA to encode the entire contents of a book, which is the largest amount of data so far to be stored using genetic material.
Although the process is still relatively slow, taking several days to write the data, the cost of DNA coding is dropping rapidly.Â So researchers claim that this type of storage could be a viable alternative to current storage media like DVDs in the next five to ten years.
And the storage capacity of DNA is completely staggering.Â According to John Bohannon “a mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare.”
There are numerous other advantages to DNA too – it can be easily copied and is extremely stable.Â So unlike tapes or DVDs, DNA will still be readable in thousands of years, even if it’s stored in less than perfect conditions.
So the potential of this new (or old) storage medium is incredibly far-reaching.Â As Sebastian Anthony says, “if the entirety of human knowledge â€“ every book, uttered word, and funny cat video â€“ can be stored in a few hundred kilos of DNA, thoughâ€¦ well, it might just be possible to record everything (hello, police state)!” At least we’ll never have to worry about lost CDs or corrupted hard drives ever again.