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Shakespeare Stored in DNA

Shakespeare Stored in DNA

A new way of storing data: Shakespeare’s sonnets on a piece of DNA.

shakespeare1With the amount of digital data rapidly increasing, long term storage of all this information is becoming an ever more immediate problem. The current total amount of digital information is estimated to be about 3 zettabytes (3000 billion billion bytes). The hard drives on which we now store all this data however take up a lot of room and use vast amounts of electricity to keep our precious bits save. Other, older, types of storage often take even more space and aren’t very enduring.

Recently a group of scientists were able to create a new way to store vast amounts of data in a very small space by effectively using nature’s information system: DNA. The researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL-EBI) encoded all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, along with an mp3 file of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a pdf file of a famous paper on the structure of DNA (Watson & Crick), and a photograph of the European Bioinformatics Institute, on a piece of DNA not bigger than a speck of dust.

The total amount of this information was less than 1 megabyte but in the future it might be possible to keep whole libraries of literature and art in a volume no bigger than a plastic cup. Since DNA is very compact and doesn’t need any power for storage it could ensure that Shakespeare and other great works of art, literature and science will live on in this form for at least thousands of years.

Source: EMBL-EBI, The Conversation
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Robin Vos

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