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Data Storing Bacteria Could Last Millennia

samzenpus posted more than 7 years ago | from the written-in-the-genes dept.

Data Storage 252

PetManimal writes "Computerworld has a story about a new technology developed by Keio University researchers that creates artificial bacterial DNA that can carry more than 100 bits of data within the genome sequence. The researchers claimed that they encoded "e= mc2 1905!" on the common soil bacteria, Bacillius subtilis. The bacteria-based data storage method has backup and long-term archival functionality." The researchers say "While the technology would most likely first be used to track medication, it could also be used to store text and images for many millennia, thwarting the longevity issues associated with today's disk and tape storage systems ... The artificial DNA that carries the data to be preserved makes multiple copies of the DNA and inserts the original as well as identical copies into the bacterial genome sequence. The multiple copies work as backup files to counteract natural degradation of the preserved data, according to the newswire. Bacteria have particularly compact DNA, which is passed down from generation to generation. The information stored in that DNA can also be passed on for long-term preservation of large data files."

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252 comments

frist pots (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18190958)

suckas!

You da sucka! Name dat tune foo! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191314)

Peter's pecker picked another
Pickle bearing pussy pepper,
Peter's pecker picked another
Pickle bearing pussy pepper, Why?

Meeting John at Dale's Jr.
Winked an eye point and point a finger,
Meeting John at Dale's Jr.
Winked an eye point and point a finger, Why?

A former cop, undercover,
Just got shot, now recovered,
A former cop, undercover,
Just got shot, now recovered, Why?

Fighting crime, with a partner,
Lois Lane, Jimmy Carter,
Fighting crime, with a partner,
Lois Lane, Jimmy Carter, (siren)

AA EE EH AA EH AA OH,
AA EE EH AA EH AA OH, Why,
As we light up the sky. ...

A Must (2, Insightful)

kraemate (1065878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190960)

We *will* need a Beowulf cluster of these, seriously.

Re:A Must (5, Insightful)

nmb3000 (741169) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191446)

You mean a Biowolf cluster.

Talk about an interesting way to sneak information out of a company/country... transcribe it into the DNA of an infectious bacteria or virus, and then infect yourself with it. You walk out the door with a sniffle and 10 million dollars worth in classified secrets.

"New company policy is no isolinear chips, holocubes, or antiquated 'flash' drives on the campus. Additionally, all employees must submit to a biological cleansing and surrender their belongings for baryon sweeping before leaving the building."

At least they might cure the common cold as I side effect to preventing data theft.

Can't stop data already. (4, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191606)

This definitely brings with it some possibilities, but I think that the technology is available right now to allow any determined person to sneak data past all but the most intensive biomedical screenings.

You can fit an awful lot of data in something the size of a Tylenol gel-cap, and aside from the unpleasant recovery aspect, nothing less than a X-ray is going to detect that (maybe not even an X-ray, if you were careful about the components used). Of course, your digestive system only gives you a window of opportunity measured in (at most) days; if you wanted to go longer than that, you're talking about implants. But that would get you through most transit checkpoints.

I'm not really even sure this is a new development: spies and other folks with resources have had microfiche and microdots for years. Cement one of those to your nether regions, or swallow one, and it would take a pretty determined search to turn one up. Or if you wanted, you could probably even sprinkle them over an unwitting mule's clothes, and then recover one on the opposite end.

It doesn't seem like data theft is really something that you can realistically try to stop at any border, anymore. If someone has the data in a format that they can load on their person and take to the border, it's gone. If you can get a person across, you can get data across. Certainly if you are allowed to take any type of electronics, it should be considered information-porus; there are so many ways to disguise information using steganography, that it's not practical to try and sanitize it.

Certainly by the time that biological information storage becomes widely practical, all but the most backwards nations and companies will have realized that stopping the flow of information with physical checkpoints at the border is a losing game. At best, you might be able to make it a little easier or harder, but real information security depends on limiting hostile parties' access to information in the first place, not trying to limit their transportation of it afterwards.

Re:A Must (2, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191658)

"You mean a Biowolf cluster.

Talk about an interesting way to sneak information out of a company/country... transcribe it into the DNA of an infectious bacteria or virus, and then infect yourself with it. You walk out the door with a sniffle and 10 million dollars worth in classified secrets."

Vergil I. Ulam did this in Greg Bear's "Blood Music"

It brought about the end of the world.

Read it. Really good. Trust me.

*bmo goes out to buy sunlamps*

--
BMO

Shareware (4, Funny)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190974)

This is the ultimate distribution system for OSS. New distros are released every flu season.
It's also not a bad way to distribute movies. Let the RIAA sue a bunch of bugs for file sharing.
And windows could be distibuted on anthrax bacteria, so users would learn to be appropriately wary.

Re:Shareware (2, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191000)

I, for one, salute our new DNA-encoded file-bearing bacterial overlords!

And note that I will happily download BacteriaTorrent as soon as I can be sure I only get movies and not some awful flesh-eating disease that makes me look like an RIAA executive, or maybe Jack Thompson.

Re:Shareware (2, Funny)

chris_eineke (634570) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191008)

New distros are released every flu season.

That would explain AOL CDs.

Bittorrent is so dead (1)

ady1 (873490) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191642)

1. Encode pop singles into viruses gnome sequence and get sick 3. Distribute the disease 4. Get sued by RIAA 5. ? 6. Profit

Why not carry all my CDs & DVDs in my DNA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191228)

Why not carry all my CDs & DVDs in my DNA? & hook-up/embed a DNA reader with the audio-plug in the ear, to 'play' my song whereever/whenever, with life long license embedded in my DNA to play the song.

Re:Shareware (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191378)

As a side benefit, the software evolves on its own once released.

Of course, it evolves to benefit its host species' reproduction. I'm not exactly sure what implications that would have for a word processor.

OMG MyDOOM! (0)

adam.dorsey (957024) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190976)

This really gives new meaning to the term "computer virus."

Re:OMG MyDOOM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191026)

This really gives new meaning to the term "computer virus."
This means that eventually, the only people left on earth will be the Linux and Mac folks.

Re:OMG MyDOOM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191128)

That doesn't happen until we can make the data executable!

Longevity Issues (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190978)

longevity issues associated with today's disk and tape storage systems .

What about the longevity issues associated with the readers?

Re:Longevity Issues (3, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191030)

It's not enough to store the data, you also have to make the data recognizable. After all 100 years from now how do you know where to look to read the data? The biggest problem is that non-coding dna is not selectively preserved.

Re:Longevity Issues (4, Interesting)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191252)

The biggest problem is that non-coding dna is not selectively preserved.

Actually, genetic sequences which are irrelevant to the survival of the entity (as these sequences presumably are) spread through a population and thus are preserved. It is not as rapid as if it provided a benefit, but they spread nonetheless. In a 5th year AI class I actually did experiments with evolutionary computation, looking at genetic changes which had no affect on the fitness of the individuals. The purpose of the experiments was actually to explore whether variation in a population, even if it didn't have any effect of the fitness of the individuals, was a good thing (basically) -turns out it is. But I also learned that even without selection pressure, mutations/new genetic information, spreads (actually rather quickly) through a population.

Re:Longevity Issues (1)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191336)

amendment: I realize I may have misinterpreted the previous poster. They are right to worry about the preservation of code in the absence of natural selection insofar as the information will degrade via mutation. While the information will spread throughout the population, there is nothing to keep it from gradually degrading.

Re:Longevity Issues (1)

edschurr (999028) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191566)

Strictly speaking, isn't the so-called irrelevent DNA important to survival? It takes energy to create useless DNA. But useless DNA might catch mutations that otherwise would effect important DNA (assuming, I guess, that the mutations occur per organism and not per nucleotide).

Re:Longevity Issues (4, Informative)

Ibag (101144) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191266)

Exactly. The fact that the data is preserved by being copied every 20 minutes is entirely counteracted by the fact that reproduction is inherently error prone. Many species of bacteria regularly swap DNA to get around the fact that their reproduction is mostly asexual, but even then, mutations can and do occur. Without some mechanism to kill the bacteria when there is a mutation with the encoded data, this is a horrible long term data storage solution. There are interesting short term tracking applications, but data storage? No.

I learned something new today... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191054)

...apparently, bacteria don't die.

Re:Longevity Issues (2, Funny)

g4sy (694060) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191300)

I can see a movie coming on: Indiana Jones and the Lost Bacteria. After a long race to figure out what the sequence means, he is forced to shoot (from an airplane) an unsuspecting Mexican maid (who he had fallen in love with) when she pulls out the AntiBacterial soap on the last remaining specimen in his hotel room.
Or something like that. I might not be the best at futuristic thrillers.

Re:Longevity Issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191338)

Well, since the readers will go extinct with global warmming, so will the bacteria.

Obligatory comment (5, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190984)

But how many Libraries of Congress will a bathroom drain hold?

Re:Obligatory comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191176)

alot, its connected to the top of a series of tubes

Re:Obligatory comment (2, Funny)

LordEd (840443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191318)

- What happens when you flush the buffers?
- I suppose this would give a new meaning to 'core dump'.
- 2000 flushes: The blue clean of death

Ok, that's all the programming toilet jokes I can think of. Somebody do some better ones. I can't think tonight.

Re:Obligatory comment (2, Funny)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191480)

I will add more for you:
- Being infected with a Virus gets a new meaning
- Virus cleaners need to be Dettol with a swab
- Worms can't infect Bacteria. In fact Bacteria can infect worms to carry messages
- The word "operating environment" takes a whole new meaning
- Google will have 1.3 million cubic feet of... "bacteria" with some dying and others being grown.
- Shipment of bacteria memories across borders will require truckers to have Biological warfare certificates and Bio-Suits...
- My USB drive can glow in the dark...

Ok, that's all i can think of before i continue my work-:)

Overwriting? (5, Insightful)

CoolGopher (142933) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190986)

So, has anyone tried working out if various junk DNA already holds information that we'd be overwriting with this technique?

I mean, there are plenty of theories about "seeding" of life on earth after all... maybe we already have a wealth of untapped knowledge?

(Personally, I think it's extremely unlikely, but that doesn't mean that it wouldn't be prudent to check anyway)

Re:Overwriting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191080)

Well lets see... there are 4 possible "values" for a given piece of DNA, so any data would be in base four. Of course, whoever did the coding would be using ASCII. Or Unicode. Or anything else. In fact it wouldn't translate into any known letters even if you did find the encoding. I seriously doubt that we would be able to decode any message in DNA left by another species.

There is, of course, still hope. Certain things *could* be decoded. I'm thinking a universal unit-less constant... like pi. If there was a significant portion of pi (starting at the beginning) encoded base four, we might find it.

Then again we'd also probably notice the huge string of DNA without a purpose that for some reason didn't change over billions of years. Such worthless information tends to go away in the long term as thing evolve, since there is no reason for it not to just because of the law of large numbers. So I think it is fairly safe to say there *is* no message in DNA, unless it is written in as a fundamental part of cellular life (in which case it wouldn't change, but it would also be much harder to hide information in).

Re:Overwriting? (2, Funny)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191114)

We're problably someones tape back up. When the main server goes down they'll be coming to vivisect us.

Re:Overwriting? (1)

truckaxle (883149) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191124)

The same thought popped into my head. After spending some time following the Bible Code [wikipedia.org] story I wonder maybe they were looking in the wrong place - maybe instead of Genesis they should be in looking into prokaryotic junk DNA.

Re:Overwriting? (1)

Fred Ferrigno (122319) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191172)

If there were encoded data, a good place to look might be the DNA rainbow [dna-rainbow.org] . It was covered on Slashdot less than a month ago [slashdot.org] , complete with comparisons to the Bible code [slashdot.org] .

Re:Overwriting? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191582)

"Turing test - tell the computer to simulate Alan Turing, then ask him if he's "just a simulation"."

**Tester** - Speaking into mouse (ala Scottie) - "Computer. Simulate Alan Turing."

**Computer** - "I am Alan Turing, would you like to chat?"

**Tester** - "Are you just a simulation?"

**Computer** - "Depends on what you mean by "just a simulation". Why do you ask?"

**Tester** - "Because it's a test."

**Computer** - "What's a test?"

**Tester** - "This is, it's a Turing test."

**Computer** - "I am Alan Turing, would you like to chat?"

Re:Overwriting? (1)

Falladir (1026636) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191244)

There was a Star Trek: TNG episode (or a two-parter) about this. I'd post a link to a synopsis if I could figure out which episode it was. There were Klingons in it...the information was for a super-weapon or something, and it had a silly name.

Re:Overwriting? (2, Informative)

joggle (594025) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191490)

You are referring to this episode [wikipedia.org] . It was effectively an arms race between the Klingong, Cardassian, Romulans and Federation to figure out this hidden code in the DNA of various humanoid species in the galaxy. They didn't know what the data was but some assumed it was instructions for building some sort of devistating weapon. It turns out to be a holograph program recording set by the 'founders' of the galaxy that had seeded each planet with dna.

teh Search for Terrestrial Intelligent Information (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191278)

We need to start a government-backed program or start our own so we can discover TEH TRUth!!!!111!

organic computing (5, Interesting)

notgm (1069012) | more than 7 years ago | (#18190988)

stories like this one, and the story earlier today about the graphene transistor, make me wonder how far off truly organic computing is - and whether or not we'll eventually be indistinguishable from computers. or they from us.

who's to say that our bodies/brains aren't some elaborate computer design ala douglas adams' design?

Re:organic computing (2, Interesting)

Monoliath (738369) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191036)

I think you raise an interesting issue, had I any mod points I would have modded you up.

Nano-technology is the missing link in the current bio-tech field, in my opinion, between the ultimate symbiosis of hardware and human flesh, it will allow us to work at levels far too minute at this point, to make the proper kind of medical advances that would allow effective cohesion of man and machine.

I can't wait for it, even though I hope the day never comes...heh ;D

What difference does it make? (1)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191398)

It's interesting that when you apply computer science to biology at their most fundamental levels, you simply confirm the feasibility of solutions long since developed by what we believe to be completely natural evolutionary processes.

The Universe is a giant computer. Or a simulation [simulation-argument.com] running inside another one. Either way, it doesn't matter.

Backing up nature. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18190992)

""Computerworld has a story about a new technology developed by Keio University researchers that creates artificial bacterial DNA that can carry more than 100 bits of data [CC] [MD] [GC] within the genome sequence. The researchers claimed that they encoded "e= mc2 1905!" on the common soil bacteria, Bacillius subtilis. The bacteria-based data storage method has backup and long-term archival functionality.""

So that's what viruses are up to.

Let me save some time, here are all of them (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18190998)

Tell me if I missed any.

"I, for one, welcome our new information-carrying bacteria overlords."
"In Soviet Russia, overlords welcome YOU!"

And this last one, because it is so funny:
"There's only 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who get laid."

-Kevin

When I was young... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191072)

We wrote down important things on stone tablets... and we liked it! Up hill, both ways, in the snow...

backup corruption? (5, Funny)

gr3kgr33n (824960) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191002)

My backup chemistry thesis mutated; granting me a degree in forensic anthropology.

Tinkering with Genes (0)

queenb**ch (446380) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191048)

Well, if this goes anything like several of the other genetically modified plants, etc. forensic anthropology might be something practiced by the species that supersedes us. The "dyed in the pod" cotton has already been a huge disaster. The "modified" corn seems to be turning the normally placid corn borer beetle into something that's going to plague us until Satan hands out ice skates. Mother Nature exists in a delicate balance and we need to leave it alone until we know what we're doing. And we do *not* know what we're doing.

2 cents,

QueenB.

Re:Tinkering with Genes (1)

king-manic (409855) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191150)

GM is not evil in itself. It has consquences we can't forsee but over time they will be mostly understood or at least kept controllable. Mother nature is nto so much in a delicate balance as it is in a equilibrium. We can knock it off and it will simple go back to that equilibrium or find another local maxima. Thats how biological systems work. The trick is to ensure the new equilibrium is compatable with human life. And that isn't a very hard problem.

Re:Tinkering with Genes (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191154)

OTOH, if we leave nature alone, then we'll never know what we're doing. And I'm unclear on what you mean by "delicate balance". The ecosystem is neither delicate nor balanced. I guess we're fortunate that the global warming controversy has drowned out the GM food noise. So what's the problems you hint at? I gather the corn borer is getting more resistant to pesticides, but it already had a reservation at the that skating party.

Massive Storage Server (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191016)

So now can I consider my poop logs to be massive data centers?

windows and mac ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191034)

now windows has a real reason to be "sick"

Obligatory bad virus joke (4, Funny)

trainsnpep (608418) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191096)

Funny how a virus will still corrupt your data.

Mod parent re-fucking-dundant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191274)

check the comment right above this, chief

Sensitive data storage? (4, Interesting)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191110)

Can you spray them with Lysol to erase them in an emergency? (The remainder of this post assumes a YES.)

This could be great for military/government intelligence archival, or, really, any situation where the data needs to be used once and destroyed.

The longevity, coupled with ease of total erasure, would be great for digital storage of any document with personal information on it, as well. I could see using these discs to submit job/credit/lease applications, recieve bills and in any dealings with the government or IRS. They'll last for as long as needed and can be completely erased before disposal.

If they're rewritable, as well, all temporary storage related to the files on the disc could be placed on the disc as well, completely keeping that sensitive data off of any other, possibly recoverable, media. If this is the case, perhaps, once these become available, any business or govenrment entity storing personal information should be required to store it on these discs and only these discs.

---

Yes, the entirity of this post, excepting this line and the first, is entirely speculative; keep that in mind when moderating (insightful?)

Re:Sensitive data storage? (1)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191168)

Aparently, I skipped a paragraph of TFS and no, I didn't read TFA. These bacteria aren't being used on discs (nor does it seem it's planned). It needs to be, so the above post makes sense :)

Moderators, please ignore the facts when reading the above post.

Harder to erase than you might think (2, Informative)

mbessey (304651) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191634)

A quick spritz of Lysol isn't going to affect the DNA of the bacteria much, if at all. Denaturing the DNA is not how antiseptics kill bacteria. I think that data stored in this fashion would actually be a lot harder to destroy than magnetic storage. After all, they can extract (fragments of) DNA from fossils.

Bug (0, Redundant)

mnmn (145599) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191138)

So is there a bug in the program or a program in the bug?

We know Windows is bloated. So Windows has lots of bugs while it takes lots of bugs to have Windows!

Re:Bug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191310)

You've got it all wrong... It's not a bug, it's a feature!

goatse (4, Funny)

doubtless (267357) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191140)

"it could also be used to store text and images for many millennia"

Imagine a Scientist from the 37th century scanning a particular bacteria's DNA sequence and hit Goatse

Re:goatse (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191386)

Imagine a Scientist from the 37th century scanning a particular bacteria's DNA sequence and hit Goatse
He would be so p0wn3d!!!11!

What was the movie/book??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191148)

I remember reading or watching a movie with just this plot... An ancient civilization puts information in DNA, only to be revealed when the DNA gets smart enough. There was some other book, ostensibly scientific, that proposed something similar: that we are merely carriers of DNA and other functions are secondary.

Re:What was the movie/book??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191466)

that we are merely carriers of DNA and other functions are secondary
The book in question could be something as old as On Origin of the Species by Darwin, but perhaps with another term substituted for DNA.

Studies (1)

Quzak (1047922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191152)

One thing they are failing to take into consideration is alteration of life. By introducing more complex data into DNA sequences it opens the possibility of AI/Self Awareness within the bacterial strains. This would be a new form of life born from a primordial sea of information and microbial DNA.
While we would not see anything change initially as it takes several hundred even thousand generations, this is a distinct possibility and needs to be addressed.

Also while I am on that note: I for one welcome our new bacterial overlords.

Re:Studies (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191576)

By introducing more complex data into DNA sequences it opens the possibility of AI/Self Awareness within the bacterial strains...this is a distinct possibility and needs to be addressed.
It's pretty easy to check for open reading frames in DNA you're writing; not checking would be negligent. You can encode your movies using only three bases if your lawyers are really worried about spawning a transcendant blob and you'd rather not think about it.

Creating DNA? (1)

sanosuke001 (640243) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191160)

Well, couldn't this be potentially dangerous? Creating random DNA molecules or changing existing bacteria could potentially create some very infectious disease. It doesn't sound like the best idea; even if the chance is remote...

Already there? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191164)

Hmm.
1) bacteria can survive vacuum
2) bacteria from elsewhere may have started life on earth
3) DNA has large, mostly useless areas which are replicated from generation to generation

Why spend money looking for intelligence when you can create it, and give it a map home? A biological machine is no less a machine. Are bacteria manufactured self-replicating probes?

On the bright side, since I posted AC no one can blame me for paraphrasing an episode of the Next Generation.

Wrong (1)

Duncan3 (10537) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191216)

DNA that isn't functional has a high rate of change.

If it's wrong and functional it dies, and only correct copies live on. If it's just data, being wrong does nothing and just keeps degrading further. This is also how we figure out how far distant relatives or species are apart as well, the "junk" DNA will diverge at a fairly steady rate over time.

So, cute trick, but that's all.

Re:Wrong (1)

David_Shultz (750615) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191294)

DNA that isn't functional has a high rate of change. If it's wrong and functional it dies, and only correct copies live on. If it's just data, being wrong does nothing and just keeps degrading further. This is also how we figure out how far distant relatives or species are apart as well, the "junk" DNA will diverge at a fairly steady rate over time. So, cute trick, but that's all.

C'mon, give it a fair chance! Let's say that the researchers surround the message in a contiguous block of text meant simply as a marker. Then future researchers could, by analyzing the degree of degradation of the marker, figure out at what point the message was written. A statistical analysis of a population of bacteria could preesumably provide enough information to reassemble the message. Besides, it is possible in principle to write the same message fifty times on one of these things. The more times you write it, the more resilient it is to degradation, since a statistical analysis (on just one individual) will allow you to reassemble the message. Do these ideas provide even a glimmer of hope for this technique? What do you think?

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191380)

No. The parent has debunked this and thats that. There is no room for clever thinking or any sort of ingenuity. This is slashdot. Pundits proclaim the hard truth because, you know, they read it on the internet somewhere. The parent poster proclaims it false, so it is so. Don't try to be clever.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191526)

Actually, while you can look at mutations over time to determine species similarities that's a completely different issue. In this case, though not mentioned in the article, the bacteria would most likely be frozen and preserved so as to prevent many life cycles (and thus replications that could introduce mutation). As a result the nonessential DNA would have little time to mutate and could be preserved within frozen bacteria. A similar approach is taken when performing genetic engineering in modern laboratories. Construction of genetic information (in this case often genes to be implanted into mammalian or other tissue) is performed in bacteria that would consider it "junk".

The real issue with the technology is that only 100 bits can be stored in a single bacteria strain, and construction of each bacteria strain is time consuming and expensive. If the technology will have any relevance it's a long way off.

also (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191240)

You know what else works? ... "paper"

very dangerous (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191304)

I haven't seen a single post by a biologist yet pointing out that if you start inserting arbitary data
into "spare" DNA then sooner or later you are going to create a lethal pathogen - purely on the basis
of probablity and statistics.

Of course you can be sure the one that wipes out all life on Earth will turn out to be an Mp3 encoding
of a Britney Spears tune.

Still need to translate the data (1)

Heir Of The Mess (939658) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191308)

They are talking about storing digital data on bacteria, so how are people millenia down the track meant to decode it? Like do we store pictures as Jpeg? Do we encode text as Unicode? What I would really like to see is bacteria that I could store all my pictures onto, and to look at them all I have to do is throw some bacteria on a wet floor and wait for them to appear. For a slideshow think of a Conways Game of Life effect. You could control the speed of the slide show by controlling the temperature.

Re:Still need to translate the data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18191530)

It's not... ... dude, what?

If you believe life on Earth came from outer space (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191332)

There are people who theorize that life on Earth has been "imported" by an intelligent space-faring race from a distant star (space fiction is not my element, so cut me some slack, ok), then you should better start looking for clues in our own DNA. The first few digits of pi, or the Euler constant, or a fibonacci series, that would be kinda cool.

Disclaimer: personally, I don't believe in this theory, but I am open to everything. Always keep an open mind.

Panspermia (2, Insightful)

quokkapox (847798) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191554)

I believe you're referring to panspermia, which could have been accidental or deliberate. In the former case, life happens to make it from one habitable environment into another across interplanetary/interstellar distances. A situation analogous to accidental panspermia occurs on earth all the time, when a coconut floats from one island to another, or an insect is blown up in a storm and lands on another continent. For interplanetary cases to be feasible, life needs to be able to make it from, say Earth to Europa or vice-versa, which I think is entirely plausible. If there is other life in this solar system how closely related to life on Earth it is will answer some questions and clarify many new ones.

In the latter case, deliberate panspermia may be the signature of intelligence far greater than our own. Life on Earth could simply be the evidence and the result from von Neumann probes from another civilization (possibly long gone) or even another galaxy (which to me is not completely implausible).

I don't believe in this theory, but I am open to everything. Always keep an open mind.

You shouldn't "believe in" any theories; simply weigh them according to how likely they seem based on current knowledge and valid criticism, and choose the best one at this time to guide further research and actions. Indeed, an open mind is required.

The first few digits of pi, or the Euler constant, or a fibonacci series, that would be kinda cool

How about instructions coding for beings which will evolve the ability to perceive and describe such mathematical concepts? The constants themselves would degrade, but the instructions for these capabilities would confer real evolutionary advantages and would be passed on for generations, and improved over time.

message from alian civilization (1)

Samarian Hillbilly (201884) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191354)

Maybe all the "junk" DNA is really a message from an alien civilization? Maybe SETI should be decoding it instead of the Biologists? If we can do it, so can someone else...

Re:message from alian civilization (1)

intronic (942593) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191428)

The messages are already here, some for around over 300 million years almost without changes. Theres hundreds of regions in the human genome, more than 200 bases long, which have remained virtually identical with the chicken genome. http://www.mg.co.za/articlepage.aspx?area=/breakin g_news/breaking_news__international_news&articleid =134442 [mg.co.za] Maybe they are on their way now to come and get their data back?

Am I the only one (1)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191438)

who has a problem with bacteria knowing about general relativity? We should watch what we teach these things or we might have a revolution on our hands (and in our dirt)... ;p

Obligatory future conversation (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191476)

"Jimmy clean your room! Its disgusting!"

"What! And lose all my data!?"

The Chase (1)

tcolberg (998885) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191478)

About four hundred years from now, we will see a group of starships from competing civilizations warping from one planet to the next in a grand race to solve a genetic puzzle encoded in the language of life, DNA. Except this time they'll be disappointed to find that instead of finding a new source of energy, the secret of life, or an all-powerful weapon, they found the encoded archives of the Slashdot message board.

Re:The Chase (1)

Quzak (1047922) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191628)

That would make for a great episode of Star Trek. We could have Picard................ohh wait nm

Compact DNA (4, Interesting)

DrKyle (818035) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191486)

Bacteria, due to their rapid rate of replication (short generation time) are very prone to selection. There would be a fitness decrease to carry around this useless DNA, especially in redundant copies. Because of this, over time the mutants which had this "data" deleted would replicate slightly more quickly and these footprints in the sand would be washed away. This is the whole reason bacteria have compact genomes, redundancy and garbage are a waste of energy to replicate every generation making them weaker than their optimized counterparts.

Possible abuses? (1)

Steffan (126616) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191492)

It occurred to me...Could this encoding be vulnerable to a sort of 'buffer overflow' type attack? i.e., if the data encodes for the duplication of the 'data' DNA, wouldn't it be possible, by artfully crafting the data, to compel the bacterium to produce an altered copy that would do other than its designers intended? It seems like this could be very useful, or potentially very dangerous.

From the future (1)

Centurix (249778) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191512)

Scientist A: OK, lets see how the first DNA storage device has held up over the last 1000 years
Scientist B: Sure, let's compare the results. Original encoding written on duct tape stuck to the side of the test tube - "e=mc2"
Scientist A: Right, I'll take a look. My god! The DNA has mutated, possibly into a better and yet more powerful equation! What does it say?
Scientist B: "=3"
Scientist A: ...
Scientist B: Wow, duct tape can hold information for 1000 years!

I wonder.... (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18191572)

if you combined them into a RAID array, would that give you better performance, or just wipe out all your data?
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