Japanese researchers tinker with bacteria to store data for a
JAPAN: These days, data gets stored on disks, computer chips,
hard drives and good old-fashioned paper. Scientists in Japan see
something far smaller but more durable - bacteria.
The four characters - T, C, A and G - that represent the genetic
coding in DNA work much like digital data. Character combinations can
stand for specific letters and symbols - so codes in genomes can be
translated, or read, to produce music, text, video and other content.
While ink may fade and computers may crash, bacterial information
lasts as long as a species stays alive - possibly a mind-boggling
million years - according to Professor Masaru Tomita, who heads the team
of researchers at Keio University.
Tomitaâ€™s team successfully inserted into a common bacterium Albert
Einsteinâ€™s famous â€śE equals MC squaredâ€ť equation and â€ś1905,â€ť the year
the Nobel Prize-winning physicist published the special theory of
Genetic coding is so massive that information - say, a Shakespeare
play - can be stashed away somewhere in the gene without affecting an
organismâ€™s overall appearance and other traits.
But mutation could distort stored data. Tomita says data are stored
in four places in the bacteria so the data stay intact, though Katsumi
Doi, bacteria expert and Kyushu University professor, is skeptical.
â€śWe may need more time for practical applications,â€ť Doi said. â€śBut I
love the idea.â€ť
Translating the Einstein message would require solving the code. But
Tomita is the kind of freethinking scientist intrigued by the notion
that an extraterrestrial might come across it in the distant future -
and naturally possess the superior intelligence to quickly solve the
Tomita shrugs off the obvious question: â€śWho in the world is going to
read bacteria?â€ť â€śMany people never even thought about storing data for
thousands of years,â€ť Tomita said. â€śThis may sound like a dream. But
weâ€™re thinking hundreds of millions of years.â€ť