Every Shakespeare sonnet now right where you need it: DNA

Credit: Image via National Portrait Gallery

Though our external hard drives seem to be expanding at an exponential rate, there’s always more information out there to be recorded. Researchers are constantly on the search for better ways to store information, and one’s been tossed around. The original, mother-of-them-all data storage device: Good old DNA.

So researchers went ahead and did what researchers do. They coded a bunch of information on DNA, including all 154 Shakespeare sonnets, a photograph of something, a scientific paper and 26 seconds of audio from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

How do you put information on DNA? Well, first you have convert your binary code to the four-letter alphabet that DNA code follows. That’s a bit complicated, but once it’s done, you can create some strands of synthetic DNA. Machines can then read said DNA and voila, they can recover the encoded data.

The reading itself took two weeks, but as our technology advances, the read time will decrease. But DNA will probably never be what you’ll use to access your latest slideshow or favorite game. Instead, it’ll store information that doesn’t need to be accessed often. After all, storage is as easy as finding a cool, dark, dry place and leaving it there.

For anyone worried out there, you can’t take this DNA and make it part of baby Susie or your new dog Spot. The stuff isn’t coded the way living DNA is, thus it can’t become part of some incredibly weird mutation.


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