TED Conversations

Tim Ingram

This conversation is closed.

The use of DNA as storage medium for a computer, as proposed in a BBC programme by Jim Al-Khalili's guest recently.

During this programme it was explained that you could use DNA as a hard disk in a computer.
It occurred to me that if this technique could be incorporated in what to all intense and purposes would be a sponge made from Nano tubes. A vast amount of information could be stored and accessed. It should also be possible to access this information from multiple points along a DNA strand, as inferred by Paul Rothemund's talk, and that one strand may be able to swap data with another.

What do people think of this proposition??

Note The Nano technology sponge idea arose from Isaac Asimove's positronic brain in case you ask.

Share:
  • thumb
    Jun 30 2013: I entertained the idea actively particularly knowing that almost 98% of human DNA is non-coding or junk. However, that seems doubtful after the ENCODE consortium came up with their data. Theoretically, DNAs are ideal candidates of data storage as they use quaternary codes instead of binary.
    • thumb
      Jun 30 2013: "quaternary" codes, just a question - what is that? I don't understand.

      Can you expand on that? I'll be greatful.
      • thumb
        Jul 1 2013: A quaternary code is one that uses 4 states or symbols, here 4 amino acids namely A,T,C and G for DNA. Since one can have more combinations of 4 symbols compared to 2, such code has more data storage capability.
        • thumb
          Jul 1 2013: I see, I just didn't make the connection. Thanks. Better than binary.
  • Jun 29 2013: Oh,really a bizarre imagination:)
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2013: It is, surprising, what come out of blue sky thinking.
  • thumb
    Jun 28 2013: DNA seems to be the Holy Grail of information storage. I read that one microgram (a paper clip weighs one gram and a microgram is one-millionth of a gram) of DNA can store the equivalent information from a million CD's! I have seen labs where DNA is kept and they look pretty high-tech. It must be hard to handle DNA without destroying it. It would feel pretty wierd to know deep inside my smartphone is a bio-blob of the basis of all life. It seems like the I/O connection would pose quite a problem since you can't hook an alligator clip to a double-helix of DNA. Also, isn't it strange that the human brain does not use DNA for data storage. . . or does it?
    • thumb
      Jun 29 2013: Yes there seems to be quite a lot being talked about. The handling must have been sorted by now as ProfJim Al-Khalili's guest had some in a test tube with him on that programme. As to whether or not DNA is used directly by brains is a mote point. We are told that DNA is the blue print of how things are put together so why not. Also it could form a scaffold for making a brain, How scaffolding works was put forward in Prof Ian Stewart's, of Worcester Uni. i books on the evolution of life.
      How you join bits of DNA together with out using crocodile clips is hinted at in Paul Rothemund details DNA folding talk.

      Whilst I am no scientist it might be that once the right DNA strands are found then they could spontaneously generate these links. It may only need one or two to be made, by hand as it were for the rest to be made by them selves.

      Thought that has just arrived whilst writing the above. Is there a critical mass of brain cells that could start acting as a micro processor?

      Does any one else have any thoughts on this?