Information Storage In Bacteria DNA Update

Four months ago, Technovelgy readers found out about how researchers had encoded information into the DNA of bacteria (see Bacteria Save Your Data, Make Multiple Backups). The mainstream media finally caught up to this story, and delivered a great anecdote that I just had to share.

As you recall, a technique that allowed researchers to attach up to 100 bits of data to each organism was created at Keio University. They successfully encoded and attached the phrase "e=mc2 1905" to the DNA of bacillus subtilis, a common soil bacteria.


(Professor Masaru Tomita headed the research team)

Others had thought about this possibility before, as it turns out:

"In so doing they have accomplished at least a part of the dream that Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and musician, and David Sulzer, a biologist at Columbia, enunciated in 1999. To create the ultimate time capsule as part of the millennium festivities at this newspaper, they proposed to encode a year’s worth of the New York Times magazine into the junk DNA of a cockroach. “The archival cockroach will be a robust repository,” Mr. Lanier wrote, “able to survive almost all conceivable scenarios.”

Truly an idea worthy of science fiction writers (and readers). It's such a good idea, I'm wondering if anyone has checked cockroach DNA for messages?

Via NY Times; see also the earlier article Bacteria Save Your Data, Make Multiple Backups for more details.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/27/2007)

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