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posted by martyb on Wednesday February 25 2015, @01:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the the-ultimate-offsite-backup dept.

A few hundred feet inside a permafrost-encrusted mountain below the Arctic circle sits the seed bank that could be humanity's last hope during a global food crisis. This month, scientists suggested that this unassuming vault is the ideal space for preserving the world's data on DNA.

This is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a bunker on the Arctic island of Svalbard, which for the past seven years has amassed almost a half million seed samples from all over the world. The idea is to use the naturally freezing, isolated environment of the far north to preserve the world's plant life and agricultural diversity—which, of course, is under threat by climate change and disaster. If a food crisis occurs, the vault could provide the seeds that repopulate parts of the world.

But it could potentially preserve much more than seeds. A study in the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie this month details the quest to find out how long data stored on DNA could be preserved, and also suggests the vault as the ideal storage location.


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Microsoft Experiments With DNA Data Storage 35 comments

Microsoft is purchasing synthesized strands of DNA to test DNA data storage:

Microsoft is buying ten million strands of DNA from biology startup Twist Bioscience to investigate the use of genetic material to store data.

The data density of DNA is orders of magnitude higher than conventional storage systems, with 1 gram of DNA able to represent close to 1 billion terabytes (1 zettabyte) of data. DNA is also remarkably robust; DNA fragments thousands of years old have been successfully sequenced. These properties make it an intriguing option for long-term data archiving. Binary data has already been successfully stored as DNA base pairs, with estimates in 2013 suggesting that it would be economically viable for storage of 500 years or more.

At a future price of 2 cents per base pair, or 1 cent per bit (ignoring the need for error correction), a terabyte would cost $80 billion (and weigh a nanogram). Once synthesized, copying it would be as cheap as using a PCR machine.

Also at TechCrunch.

Related: An Isolated Vault Could Store Our Data on DNA for 2 Million Years
Scientists Store Digital Images in DNA, and Retrieve Them Perfectly

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by VLM on Wednesday February 25 2015, @01:55PM

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday February 25 2015, @01:55PM (#149489)

    This is an excellent example how not to do stuff in tech, specifically backups.

    The tech world is full of stories (all false, of course) about data being inaccessible because its all on paper tape or 7-track or dectape or 8 inch floppy that was stored for 50 years. In the retrocomputing world there are plenty of people quite capable of accessing that data, of course. There's nothing like that for DNA.

    Anyway if you want to preserve some weird corn seed, the way to do it is farm/zoo like where you grow a new batch every decade/century/whatever, not just pile it up and hope it'll stay piled up for 2M years and when the 2M years is up I guess you're screwed.

    Same thing with data. I have some stuff (not much) from over 30 years ago. Its trivial. Just keep copying it to newer stuff.

    The biggest problem is culling what seems like "useless" data that would later be kinda nostalgic. I implemented the "standard" day of easter calculator algorithm in '81 as my first "real" program project and I wish I kept it for old times sake. Its totally useless, but it worked. A lot of stuff got culled that would have been entertaining. I had a weird task of maintaining some Fortran77 around '92 that was interesting, it was some weird heat transfer analysis thing the purpose of which was beyond my paygrade at the time. I wrote a shitty text adventure dungeon crawler in '83 that I wish I had a copy of. I wrote a device driver for some parallel port thingy on OS-9 in maybe '85 in 6809 assembly that was a hacked up version of some other parallel port driver that I kinda reverse engineered and reworked. In '97 I wrote my first Perl CGI script, basically a web interface to browse an event log. All that stuff would be amusing to see again. VCS seems to help, I still have my first RoR production CRUD app from '06 buried in the subversion repo which I guess was imported into the git repo for that product some years back.

    The analogy of culling "useless" data for this DNA thing would be tossing out banana DNA or pig DNA because who needs that just go to the supermarket we need space for the elusive wyoming carnivorous tumbleweed and whatnot. Then here comes some plague and "sure would be nice to have bananas or pork again" but no all we got is some tumbleweed.

  • (Score: 2) by sudo rm -rf on Wednesday February 25 2015, @03:24PM

    by sudo rm -rf (2357) on Wednesday February 25 2015, @03:24PM (#149513) Journal

    I was getting bored and looked for the CV [] of the editor-in-chief of the Journal "Angewandte Chemie". Boy, this guy likes to found journals it seems:

    Present and Previous Positions

            2009-now Founder & Editor-in-chief of ChemCatChem
            2008-now Founder & Editor-in-chief of ChemSusChem
            2006/09 Founder & Editor-in-chief with R. Noyori of Chemistry - An Asian J.
            2006 Founder & Editor-in-chief of ChemMedChem
            2004/05 Founder & Editor-in-chief of Small
            2000-now Founder & Editor-in-chief of ChemPhysChem
            2000-now Founder & Editor-in-chief of ChemBioChem
            1995-2001 Founder with J.-M. Lehn & Editor-in-chief of Chemistry - A European Journal
            1991-1996 Editorial Director for Chemistry
            1988-1991 Founder & Editor of Advanced Materials
            1982-now Editor-in-chief of Angewandte Chemie
            1980-now Verlag Chemie/VCH/Wiley-VCH, scientific publisher, Weinheim
            1979/80 Postdoc fellow, University of Hamburg (Prof Dr. A. de Meijere)
            1978/79 Postdoc fellow, IBM, San Jose, California (Dr. R.D. Miller)
            1978 PhD at Georg-August-University, Goettingen, Germany

  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Wednesday February 25 2015, @03:25PM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Wednesday February 25 2015, @03:25PM (#149514) Journal

    Is there a contingency plan in case average outside temperatures get above freezing? Surrounding it with insulation, and storing ice blocks inside, like an old fashioned ice house, doesn't seem too practical. Move to a place that stays below freezing, if there still is one?

    Maybe figure out what more information is needed to rebuild seeds from scratch. In addition to DNA that would be the epigenome? The record of which genes are deactivated by methylation? And the DNA and epigenomes of all the symbiotic bacteria and viruses? And DNA of organelles, such as the mitochondria? Store all that info on a medium that does not require freezing temperatures.

  • (Score: 1) by artman on Wednesday February 25 2015, @05:07PM

    by artman (1584) on Wednesday February 25 2015, @05:07PM (#149572)

    Ancient DNA vault found in Antarctica.

    No Sig for me Thanks
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25 2015, @05:11PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25 2015, @05:11PM (#149574)

    "this is awesome!

    especially for someone like me that adores nuclear steam creation and doesn't much give a damn about the environment!
    now we can build (and nuke power) a 3-D human printer in a cave that will create a humans [sic] in 2 million years after all the crap has decayed and killed everybody on the planet if nobody shows up to reset the switch for another 2 million years"

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25 2015, @05:13PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25 2015, @05:13PM (#149575)

    With half a million seed samples saved over the last seven years, various questions arise. They obviously know something I don't, so:

    What are the powers planning to do with us ?
    Are they planning to reduce the world population and keep the rest in chains ?
    Is there going to be a zombie invasion ?
    At what step of the process are they in creating the zombie invasion ?

    All news seems to point to one of the above, or the Soviet Union Russia invading the rest of the world to create the perfect workers' paradise world and rid the world of capitalism.

    Should I start packing and prepare for a long fight ?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25 2015, @08:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25 2015, @08:15PM (#149666)

    Anyone realize who is behind this? Gates, Monsanto and the Rockefellers: []

    I didn't see it mentioned in the Gizmodo article, but then again.. it's Gizmodo. The most likely scenario is that which is housed in the seed vault will only be available to the eclectic few.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26 2015, @12:52AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 26 2015, @12:52AM (#149785)

    it would be hilarious if this was how Noah carried the animals.

  • (Score: 2) by slash2phar on Thursday February 26 2015, @01:43AM

    by slash2phar (623) on Thursday February 26 2015, @01:43AM (#149794)

    I wonder how perma that frost really is.