The news is full of technological advances nowadays, many of which are of questionable usefulness and don’t warrant much attention. But now and then you hear about something that stops you cold and all you can do is think holy Jesus, how did somebody ever come up with that? That happened to me just now when I heard that we’re embedding audio into synthetic DNA now. Seriously.
To encode data in DNA, researchers first convert the zeroes and ones that make up digital information into As, Ts, Cs and Gs, which correspond to the building blocks of DNA—adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine.
Once functional sequences are prepared, researchers can make and duplicate synthetic DNA from them.
“Tutu” and “Smoke on the Water” now exist in millions of sequences of DNA that can be stored in a tiny test tube.
To listen to them, one must first suspend the DNA holding the songs in a solution. Next, one can use a DNA sequencer to read the letters of the bases forming the molecules. Then, algorithms can determine the digital code those letters form. From that code, comes the music.
It’s complicated but Ceze says his team performed this process without error.
No, I’m not even going to pretend I can get my head around how all of this works, but it’s quite the amazing thing. At the rate we create data now, being able to store several exabytes of it in objects the size of sugar cubes for potentially several hundred thousand years is only going to get more useful assuming the technology gets to the point where production and decoding become a lot less complex and a lot more accessible.
One thing they don’t explain though is why they didn’t archive this:
Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?