This Speck of DNA Contains a Movie, a Computer Virus, and an Amazon Gift Card

Ed Yong in The Atlantic:

Lead_960In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers—among the first filmmakers in history released a movie called The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station. Just 50 seconds long, it consists of a silent, unbroken, monochrome shot of a train pulling into a platform full of people. It was a vivid example of the power of “animated photographs”, as one viewer described them. Now, 122 years later, The Arrival of a Train is breaking new ground again. It has just become one of the first movies to be stored in DNA.

In the famous double-helices of life’s fundamental molecule, Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University encoded the movie, along with a computer operating system, a photo, a scientific paper, a computer virus, and an Amazon gift card.

They used a new strategy, based on the codes that allow movies to stream reliably across the Internet. In this way, they managed to pack the digital files into record-breakingly small amounts of DNA. A one terabyte hard drive currently weighs around 150 grams. Using their methods, Erlich and Zielinski can fit 215,000 times as much data in a single gram of DNA. You could fit all the data in the world in the back of a car.

More here.