Saturday, March 4, 2017

Highest Density Information Storage Device Ever Invented

The journal Science reports some fascinating facts about information storage:
Humanity has a data storage problem: More data were created in the past 2 years than in all of preceding history. And that torrent of information may soon outstrip the ability of hard drives to capture it. Now, researchers report that they’ve come up with a new way to encode digital data in DNA to create the highest-density large-scale data storage scheme ever invented. Capable of storing 215 petabytes (215 million gigabytes) in a single gram of DNA, the system could, in principle, store every bit of datum ever recorded by humans in a container about the size and weight of a couple of pickup trucks.

DNA has many advantages for storing digital data. It’s ultracompact, and it can last hundreds of thousands of years if kept in a cool, dry place. And as long as human societies are reading and writing DNA, they will be able to decode it. “DNA won’t degrade over time like cassette tapes and CDs, and it won’t become obsolete,” says Yaniv Erlich, a computer scientist at Columbia University. And unlike other high-density approaches, such as manipulating individual atoms on a surface, new technologies can write and read large amounts of DNA at a time, allowing it to be scaled up.
It is astonishing that chance and natural selection could have produced a data storage apparatus with this degree of capacity. If brilliant engineers bringing to bear all the genius of the human species can't develop storage media that can even come close to what nature has produced pretty much by lucky accident, shouldn't we ask the question, was it really an accident?

Anyway, here's a video which gives a brief explanation of the sort of research being done on using DNA as a data storage medium: