Back up Your Data -- Before the Bacteria Evolve

Loraine Lawson

My brain hurts just reading this headline from


Researchers Store Data in Bacteria DNA


The headline is so casual, it sounds as if a scientist lost his data and just happened to remember he'd recently stored it in a bacteria.


Ron L. Hubbard couldn't make this stuff up. Bill Gates must be gathering up petri dishes as we speak. Me, I'm headed straight for Area 51-level paranoia.


The story confirms the headline is literal: Keio University Professor Masaru Tomita and a team of researchers have managed to store data in bacteria's DNA. Note: It's not that they've managed to prove it's possible. They've actually done it!


To be precise, they've stored Albert Einstein's theory of relativity formula, the famous "E equals MC squared," and the year he came up with his theory, 1905.


Tomita explains that the four characters representing genetic coding in DNA is similar to digital data. So, these characters can stand for letters and symbols. Theoretically, you could store a Shakespeare play in the bacteria's DNA without changing it's "overall appearance and other traits," the article says.


Theoretically, the code could live for a million years -- as long as the bacteria species lives. No need to worry about power surges or cooling server rooms. Just keep your bacteria happy.


The problem, of course, is what happens to the data when the bacteria mutates? And who's going to decode all this data?


But those are issues for future generations -- or maybe future alien overlords -- to solve.

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