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Author Topic: How can we read data in long term storage in the future?  (Read 1515 times)

Offline krool1969

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On the Naked Scientist podcast I'm listening to (Transparent electronics) one person was talking about using DNA for extremely long term storage of data. Recently NASA had a problem with stored DATA. Records from the Apollo program had been stored on computer tape on a type no longer used today. A private citizen had to build a 1960's era computer from scratch so these records could be retrieved. Fortunately the plans to build the computer were still available.
  This data was only 40 years old (about 1/2 a human lifetime) so there were plenty of people still alive who knew how to build such a machine, and or knew where to find the plans for it. What chance is there that a DNA data reader will exists in 30 thousand years? After that long, not only will the people who know the technology be long dead but and paper record will be dust.
  It will be like the Egyptian Hieroglyphs except there will be no Rosetta Stone. Further, at least the modern archeologists knew there was data available in the writing, even if they were unable to read it. What clues will be available to archeologists in 30 thousand years (assuming they exists) that will tell them there is data encoded in these chemicals?


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: How can we read data in long term storage in the future?
« Reply #1 on: 25/01/2013 11:37:31 »
If humanity and technology survives, I would presume that the ability to read DNA will last for a very long time as it is critical for understanding ourselves, and our environment.

How is the DNA to be preserved?  I thought it was fairly fragile, which is why reconstructing DNA from extinct animals is cumbersome.

Would amino acid sequences be easier to preserve?

Nonetheless, I believe DNA and protein sequencing is a destructive process, so one would have to have multiple copies of the data record.

The biggest issue might be remembering the meaning of the nucleotide sequence.  Would it take expert code cracking?  Computers, of course, encode binary.  DNA is a sequence of 4 different nucleotides.  Proteins have 20 amino acids. 

Early computing had a few different character standards, ASCII, EBCDIC, others?  ASCII has become dominant recently, although it has been extended using some additional conventions.  If one built an ASCII based encoding, and ASCII was to endure for millenia, then one might have a chance to decode it.  However, if ASCII was superseded, then it could prove problematic. 

If we were to choose to attempt to terraform a planet around a distant star, 5 to 10 lightyears away, it would be an interesting idea to add a superfluous non-coding chromosome to every eukaryote, somewhat like a message in a bottle.
 

Offline RE.Craig

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Re: How can we read data in long term storage in the future?
« Reply #2 on: 11/02/2013 15:49:12 »
Only last week I heard a BBC programme that played a recording of a Shakespeare sonnet that had been encoded onto DNA. Exactly how this is done I will not pretend to understand but it is indeed very impressive. The above process does of course assume that generations in the far future will have the ability to read said encoded data. I'm glad that they have such confidence, it is a confidence I do not possess. It is  not that any future generation lacks the intellectual ability to understand DNA encoding but they may have gone backwards in terms of technology for any number of reasons including war, population decimation due to disease or hunger ect ect ect. Something simple like a gramophone recording could be easily played by even the most primitive engineering culture as could magnetically encoded data with a bit more know how and application. There are of course books my personal favourite form of enlightenment. Books kept in a proper environment, say in a huge sealed repository in the middle of the Atacama desert, would likely last for tens of thousands of years if well prepared on archival paper. It causes me no end frustration that hard copy books are becoming increasingly hard to acquire. It is also alarming to realise that the books on ones Kindle are only their as long as your Kindle lasts. I have a large collection of books many of which I inherited from my grandfather  some of which are over three hundred years old. Not only will your Kindle not last long enough to pass to your kids or grandchildren, if it did last and you passed it on you would be braking the law!
Bruce Willis is currently taking Apple to court because in an interview Willis was talking about his passion for music and he mentioned that he would be passing on his massive I-Pod collection to his kids. Apple saw the interview and published a comment saying that Willis and anyone else who did this would be breaking the law. Apple and many Record labels are currently developing a 20-25 year "terminator"  program that wipes "your paid for collection" clean after the said period!           
 

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Re: How can we read data in long term storage in the future?
« Reply #2 on: 11/02/2013 15:49:12 »

 

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