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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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  • organic computing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by notgm ( 1069012 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:14AM (#18190988)
    stories like this one, and the story earlier today about the graphene transistor, make me wonder how far off truly organic computing is - and whether or not we'll eventually be indistinguishable from computers. or they from us.

    who's to say that our bodies/brains aren't some elaborate computer design ala douglas adams' design?

  • Re:organic computing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Monoliath ( 738369 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:19AM (#18191036)
    I think you raise an interesting issue, had I any mod points I would have modded you up.

    Nano-technology is the missing link in the current bio-tech field, in my opinion, between the ultimate symbiosis of hardware and human flesh, it will allow us to work at levels far too minute at this point, to make the proper kind of medical advances that would allow effective cohesion of man and machine.

    I can't wait for it, even though I hope the day never comes...heh ;D
  • by BronsCon ( 927697 ) <> on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:29AM (#18191110) Journal
    Can you spray them with Lysol to erase them in an emergency? (The remainder of this post assumes a YES.)

    This could be great for military/government intelligence archival, or, really, any situation where the data needs to be used once and destroyed.

    The longevity, coupled with ease of total erasure, would be great for digital storage of any document with personal information on it, as well. I could see using these discs to submit job/credit/lease applications, recieve bills and in any dealings with the government or IRS. They'll last for as long as needed and can be completely erased before disposal.

    If they're rewritable, as well, all temporary storage related to the files on the disc could be placed on the disc as well, completely keeping that sensitive data off of any other, possibly recoverable, media. If this is the case, perhaps, once these become available, any business or govenrment entity storing personal information should be required to store it on these discs and only these discs.


    Yes, the entirity of this post, excepting this line and the first, is entirely speculative; keep that in mind when moderating (insightful?)
  • Re:Longevity Issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by David_Shultz ( 750615 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @01:57AM (#18191252)
    The biggest problem is that non-coding dna is not selectively preserved.

    Actually, genetic sequences which are irrelevant to the survival of the entity (as these sequences presumably are) spread through a population and thus are preserved. It is not as rapid as if it provided a benefit, but they spread nonetheless. In a 5th year AI class I actually did experiments with evolutionary computation, looking at genetic changes which had no affect on the fitness of the individuals. The purpose of the experiments was actually to explore whether variation in a population, even if it didn't have any effect of the fitness of the individuals, was a good thing (basically) -turns out it is. But I also learned that even without selection pressure, mutations/new genetic information, spreads (actually rather quickly) through a population.
  • Compact DNA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrKyle ( 818035 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @02:51AM (#18191486)
    Bacteria, due to their rapid rate of replication (short generation time) are very prone to selection. There would be a fitness decrease to carry around this useless DNA, especially in redundant copies. Because of this, over time the mutants which had this "data" deleted would replicate slightly more quickly and these footprints in the sand would be washed away. This is the whole reason bacteria have compact genomes, redundancy and garbage are a waste of energy to replicate every generation making them weaker than their optimized counterparts.
  • Re:A Must (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @03:33AM (#18191658)
    "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."

    Vergil I. Ulam did this in Greg Bear's "Blood Music"

    It brought about the end of the world.

    Read it. Really good. Trust me.

    *bmo goes out to buy sunlamps*

  • Re:So use PAR2 then (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ion_ ( 176174 ) on Thursday March 01, 2007 @05:42AM (#18192070) Homepage

    On USENET binary groups you see lots of incomplete and degraded parts of data, but they're reconstructed with par2. Can't something like that be adapted to this situation as well?

    Indeed. Parchive [] uses Reed-Solomon error correction [] to create redundant data so that if you have one block of such data, you can use it to correct any single corrupted block in the source data.

    It is also used in e.g. RAID-5 and CDs (ever wondered why you can make a long scratch and it still plays correctly?)

    The article only talks about multiple copies of the original data, but I wouldn't be surprised if the scientists actually use a Reed-Solomon implementation for redundancy.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court