A team of scientists has produced a truly concise anthology of verse by encoding all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets in DNA. The researchers say that their technique could easily be scaled up to store all of the data in the world. Along with the sonnets, the team encoded a 26-second audio clip from Martin Luther King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, a copy of James Watson and Francis Crick’s classic paper on the structure of DNA, a photo of the researchers' institute and a file that describes how the data were converted. The researchers report their results today on Nature’s website1. The project, led by Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) at Hinxton, UK, marks another step towards using nucleic acids as a practical way of storing information — one that is more compact and durable than current media such as hard disks or magnetic tape. “I think it’s a really important milestone,” says George Church a molecular geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, who encoded a draft of his latest book in DNA last year2. “We have a real field now.”
DNA packs information into much less space than other media. For example, CERN, the European particle-physics lab near Geneva, currently stores around 90 petabytes of data on some 100 tape drives. Goldman’s method could fit all of those data into 41 grams of DNA.