Thursday 26 February 2015

Glassed-in DNA Makes the Ultimate Time Capsule

If you want to preserve messages for long terms such as; 100 years to 1000 years or more, so may be Blu-ray discs or USB sticks are good enough as now you have one more option to preserve even more data and that option is DNA time capsule. Theoretically, 1 gram of DNA is capable to hold 455 exabytes, which is enough to store all data held by Facebook, Google and other major tech company. DNA time capsule have incredible feature for durability as some of the DNA has been extracted and sequenced from the bones of 700,000-year-old horse, but this theory comes with certain terms and conditions.

In Zurich, Robert Grass from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, said that “We all know that if we store it lying around, so we will lose the information” and because of that he and his team is working on ways to increase DNA's longevity with a single aim to store data for hundreds or millions of years. The process is simple to store the data on DNA is to encode the information on DNA stand whereas; the most simplest method is to treat DNA bases G and T as a 1 and A and C as 0. Of course if there will be any damage on DNA levels or in DNA holes, so there is method to recover that which is widely known as Reed-Solomon code or an error-correcting technique. Robert Grass and his team is also trying to mimic the way fossils for the purpose to keep a DNA sequence intact by excluding all water from environment, which is key to encapsulate the DNA in any microscopic spheres.

To test the longevity of storage system they encoded two venerable documents of 83 kilobytes, a 10th-century version of ancient Greek texts, The Archimedes Palimpsest and and The Swiss federal charter from 1291. And then DNA versions of these texts were kept at 60 °C to 70 °C for a week to simulate ageing and they found that documents are still readable without any major or minor errors. And result suggested that data in DNA form could last in 2000 or 2200 years if it will be at a temperature of 10 °C or little more.

Grass is trying to store all the current knowledge for future generations, but this method is so much expensive to generate DNA stand in present. In normal conditions the cost to encode 83 kilobytes is approx. £1000, so if anyone will attempt to do same with Wikipedia then it will run to billions. Apart from this Grass suggests that we should focus on what our upcoming generation or future historians might want to read rather than storing all information. He says that if you will see that how we look at the Middle Ages, so it can influence them and due t that we should save these types of specific information’s. But still Grass is not sure about what to put in a time capsule.

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