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Newspapers outdated? Read some DNA

Last year, scientists at the European Bioinformatics Institute created a DNA information storage and retrieval system – think “organic hard drive” – and tested it by uploading sonnets, sound clips and how-to’s. Basically, they scraped through the public domain archive of Wikimedia Commons, although they were ultimately discerning in their selections.

The information, stored on hundreds of thousands of strands of DNA, according to ExtremeTech, “… consisted of a .txt file of all of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a 26-second clip of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a .jpeg of the Bioinformatics Institute, a .pdf of Watson and Crick’s paper that detailed DNA structure, and a file that explains the actual encoding process being used …”

The files were downloaded from the Internet and encoded on DNA into an organic form – as it was described in a manner reminiscent of Douglas Adams – “the size of a rather small piece of dust.”

“When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover …?”

Uh, no, they effectively rendered the works of Shakespeare, King, Watson and Crick into the “lorem ipsum” of bioinformatics. True, they had to put something in there, but the question that gets me is how do you choose? Of all the works of humankind, how does one choose that with which to make history?


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