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