Scientific Sense Podcast

Monday, April 25, 2016

Biological storage

Recent news (1) that University of Washington researchers have successfully stored and retrieved data using DNA molecules is exciting. As the world accumulates data - already many tens of millions of gigabytes, growing at an alarming rate, storage capacity and efficiency are becoming top priorities in computing. With material sciences still lagging and computer scientists clinging to the Silicon status-quo, it is important that the field takes a biological direction. After all, nature has coded and retrieved complex information for ever. Using the same mechanism is likely a few orders of magnitude more efficient than what is currently available.

DNA, the most important biological breakthrough over four billion years, has been almost incomprehensible for humans, arguably, the best product of evolution. Lately, however, they have been able to understand it a bit better. Although some argues that the human genome map is the end game, it is likely that it is just a humble beginning. The multi factorial flexibility afforded by the DNA molecule may allow newer ways to store binary data, making it akin to the other belated innovation - quantum computing. Here, thus far, research focused on mechanistic attempts to force fit the idea into the Silicon matrix. Taking a biological route, perhaps aided by the best functioning quantum computer, the human brain, may be a more profitable path.

Biology could accelerate lagging innovation in material sciences and computer science.


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