A team of British researchers has used DNA — the genetic building blocks of life — to record Shakespeare’s sonnets and excerpts from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
The experiment, along with another published late last year, show that what we think about as life’s alphabet can also be used to preserve our greatest creations, perhaps for thousands or tens of thousands of years. [...]
The researchers used strands of DNA synthesized by a machine — not from a living creature — encoded to create the zeroes and ones of digital technology. Although the two teams worked independently and used different codes, their papers are “fraternal twins,” Endy said, that show it will soon be both realistic and practical to record vast reams of information in strands of chemicals too small to see. [...]
Reading the DNA is the expensive part right now, though both teams predict that cost will come down exponentially within the next decade, putting DNA storage potentially within reach of average people. Birney predicted that couples could soon be storing their wedding videos on DNA, to be seen by their grandchildren.
Storage of the DNA should be relatively inexpensive and easy, both teams said. A cold, dry, dark place is ideal, so there will be no electricity bills. And DNA is incredibly small and virtually weightless. One Shakespearean sonnet weighs 0.3 x 10-12 grams, Goldman said, and information that would fill more than a million CDs can fit in a vial smaller than a pinkie.
And because the DNA didn’t come from a living creature, it doesn’t figure to face the same obstacles that slowed stem cell research.