The Ultimate Data Compression

Jan 25 2013 @ 6:25pm

Researchers recently used DNA to perfectly encode, transmit and reconstruct all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and a portion of MLK’s”I Have A Dream” speech, among other things. Ed Yong runs down the advantages this method has over your average thumb drive:

For a start, it takes up far less space. Goldman’s files came to 757 kilobytes and he could barely see them. For a more dramatic comparison, CERN, Europe’s big particle physics laboratory, currently stores around 90 petabytes of data (a petabyte is a million gigabytes) on around 100 tape drives. Goldman’s method could fit that into 41 grams of DNA. That’s a cupful. …

And using DNA would finally divorce the thing that stores information from the things that read it. Time and again, our storage formats become obsolete because we stop making the machines that read them—think about video tapes, cassettes, or floppy disks. That’s a faff—it means that archivists have to constantly replace all their equipment, and laboriously rewrite their documents in the new format du jour, all at great expense. But we will always want to read DNA. It’s the molecule of life.

The only problem? Encoding currently costs $12,400 per MB.