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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

World

Shakespeare’s poems encoded in DNA
PTI
London, January 24, 2013
First Published: 23:12 IST(24/1/2013)
Last Updated: 00:14 IST(25/1/2013)

A genetic storage device has been used to “download” all 154 of  Shakespeare’s sonnets on to strands of synthetic DNA, in a breakthrough which could solve the problem of storing ever-growing data.


Scientists were able to decode the information and reproduce the words of the Bard with complete accuracy.

The new method by researchers at the EMBL-European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), published in the journal Nature, makes it possible to store at least 100 million hours of high-definition video in about a cup of DNA.

The technique made it possible to store a 26-second excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and a photo of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory where the work took place.

Researchers were also able to turn a copy of Watson and Crick’s paper describing the nature of DNA into genetic code.

There is a lot of digital information in the world — about three zettabytes’ worth (that’s 3,000 billion billion bytes) — and the constant influx of new digital content poses a real challenge for archivists.

Hard disks are expensive and require a constant supply of electricity, while even the best “no-power” archiving materials such as magnetic tape degrade within a decade.

This is a growing problem in the life sciences, where massive volumes of data — including DNA sequences — make up the fabric of the scientific record.

“We already know that DNA is a robust way to store information because we can extract it from bones of woolly mammoths, which date back tens of thousands of years,” said Nick Goldman of EMBL-EBI.


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