Scientists encode MP3s, PDF, photograph, and algorithm to DNA

Jan 24, 2013
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Scientists have written MP3 files to DNA, according to a report published in the journal Nature. The data that can be written isn't limited to just to audio files, however, and is achieved using trinary encoding. In this particular experiment, the researchers encoded all of Shakespeare's sonnets, as well as a part of Martin Luther King's speech, a photo, a PDF, and the binary-to-trinary algorithm used for encoding.

The computer data had to be converted from binary to trinary due to the number of bases in a DNA molecule. While there are four bases, the researchers utilized one of the bases to avoid straight sequences of a single base, resulting in a total of three bases for data. This was done in order to avoid the errors that would result from utilizing the single base sequences.

The encoded data was split into sections, tagged with an ID, and marked to indicate its position within the overall file. In most of the instances, the files were then reconstructed correctly, with only one having a mistake in the sequence, although the mistake wasn't so severe that the researchers weren't able to recover the missing data.

The team responsible for the project stated that the storage density per gram was an astounding 2.2 petabytes. In this project, the DNA used was dried before being sent out, but for the purpose of long-term data storage, the DNA can be chilled, which will have longer lasting results. Estimates say that DNA can be used to archive data for 5,000 years, with it becoming economically viable for a shorter term duration (50 years) within the next decade.

[via ars technica]


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