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Data Storage Biotech

Data Storing Bacteria Could Last Millennia 252

PetManimal writes "Computerworld has a story about a new technology developed by Keio University researchers that creates artificial bacterial DNA that can carry more than 100 bits of data within the genome sequence. The researchers claimed that they encoded "e= mc2 1905!" on the common soil bacteria, Bacillius subtilis. The bacteria-based data storage method has backup and long-term archival functionality." The researchers say "While the technology would most likely first be used to track medication, it could also be used to store text and images for many millennia, thwarting the longevity issues associated with today's disk and tape storage systems ... The artificial DNA that carries the data to be preserved makes multiple copies of the DNA and inserts the original as well as identical copies into the bacterial genome sequence. The multiple copies work as backup files to counteract natural degradation of the preserved data, according to the newswire. Bacteria have particularly compact DNA, which is passed down from generation to generation. The information stored in that DNA can also be passed on for long-term preservation of large data files."
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Data Storing Bacteria Could Last Millennia

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  • A Must (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kraemate ( 1065878 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:11AM (#18190960)
    We *will* need a Beowulf cluster of these, seriously.
  • Overwriting? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CoolGopher ( 142933 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:14AM (#18190986)
    So, has anyone tried working out if various junk DNA already holds information that we'd be overwriting with this technique?

    I mean, there are plenty of theories about "seeding" of life on earth after all... maybe we already have a wealth of untapped knowledge?

    (Personally, I think it's extremely unlikely, but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be prudent to check anyway)
  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:19AM (#18191030)
    It's not enough to store the data, you also have to make the data recognizable. After all 100 years from now how do you know where to look to read the data? The biggest problem is that non-coding dna is not selectively preserved.
  • Re:A Must (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nmb3000 ( 741169 ) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:39AM (#18191446) Journal
    You mean a Biowolf cluster.

    Talk about an interesting way to sneak information out of a company/country... transcribe it into the DNA of an infectious bacteria or virus, and then infect yourself with it. You walk out the door with a sniffle and 10 million dollars worth in classified secrets.

    "New company policy is no isolinear chips, holocubes, or antiquated 'flash' drives on the campus. Additionally, all employees must submit to a biological cleansing and surrender their belongings for baryon sweeping before leaving the building."

    At least they might cure the common cold as I side effect to preventing data theft.
  • Panspermia (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quokkapox ( 847798 ) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:07AM (#18191554)

    I believe you're referring to panspermia, which could have been accidental or deliberate. In the former case, life happens to make it from one habitable environment into another across interplanetary/interstellar distances. A situation analogous to accidental panspermia occurs on earth all the time, when a coconut floats from one island to another, or an insect is blown up in a storm and lands on another continent. For interplanetary cases to be feasible, life needs to be able to make it from, say Earth to Europa or vice-versa, which I think is entirely plausible. If there is other life in this solar system how closely related to life on Earth it is will answer some questions and clarify many new ones.

    In the latter case, deliberate panspermia may be the signature of intelligence far greater than our own. Life on Earth could simply be the evidence and the result from von Neumann probes from another civilization (possibly long gone) or even another galaxy (which to me is not completely implausible).

    I don't believe in this theory, but I am open to everything. Always keep an open mind.

    You shouldn't "believe in" any theories; simply weigh them according to how likely they seem based on current knowledge and valid criticism, and choose the best one at this time to guide further research and actions. Indeed, an open mind is required.

    The first few digits of pi, or the Euler constant, or a fibonacci series, that would be kinda cool

    How about instructions coding for beings which will evolve the ability to perceive and describe such mathematical concepts? The constants themselves would degrade, but the instructions for these capabilities would confer real evolutionary advantages and would be passed on for generations, and improved over time.

  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot...kadin@@@xoxy...net> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:21AM (#18191606) Homepage Journal
    This definitely brings with it some possibilities, but I think that the technology is available right now to allow any determined person to sneak data past all but the most intensive biomedical screenings.

    You can fit an awful lot of data in something the size of a Tylenol gel-cap, and aside from the unpleasant recovery aspect, nothing less than a X-ray is going to detect that (maybe not even an X-ray, if you were careful about the components used). Of course, your digestive system only gives you a window of opportunity measured in (at most) days; if you wanted to go longer than that, you're talking about implants. But that would get you through most transit checkpoints.

    I'm not really even sure this is a new development: spies and other folks with resources have had microfiche and microdots for years. Cement one of those to your nether regions, or swallow one, and it would take a pretty determined search to turn one up. Or if you wanted, you could probably even sprinkle them over an unwitting mule's clothes, and then recover one on the opposite end.

    It doesn't seem like data theft is really something that you can realistically try to stop at any border, anymore. If someone has the data in a format that they can load on their person and take to the border, it's gone. If you can get a person across, you can get data across. Certainly if you are allowed to take any type of electronics, it should be considered information-porus; there are so many ways to disguise information using steganography, that it's not practical to try and sanitize it.

    Certainly by the time that biological information storage becomes widely practical, all but the most backwards nations and companies will have realized that stopping the flow of information with physical checkpoints at the border is a losing game. At best, you might be able to make it a little easier or harder, but real information security depends on limiting hostile parties' access to information in the first place, not trying to limit their transportation of it afterwards.
  • by emj ( 15659 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:46AM (#18191710) Journal
    Well I guess you need alot of error checking and all that, and lets simplfiy it by saying that all of those 100b can be used to store data. That would mean about 7 Terbytes of data stored in 2^40 (10^24) bacteria, if you put these bacterias in a long single line you will get something that's 11 kilometers long.

    Bacteria diameter: 0.1 micrometer
    Sequence ID (SID): 40 bits
    Databits (D): 60 bits
    Maxstorage: 2^SID*D about 7680 Gigabytes

    this is not even pseudoscience.. ;-)
  • Mankind (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theuedimaster ( 996047 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:00AM (#18191938)
    Pretty soon we're gonna find out that human DNA was just supposed be storage for Alien pornography.

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