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Can information such as movies be stuffed into DNA?

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Well, there are some limitations: From John Timmer at Ars Technica:

Nothing about DNA is 100 percent accurate or even as close to the accuracy we’ve come to expect from our electronic bit storage media. Simply synthesizing DNA of a desired sequence will sometimes result in an error, as will amplifying it or decoding it again. And some specific sequences are especially error prone, like long runs of a single base (like TTTTTTTTTT) or stretches that are a mix of Gs and Cs. So any encoding method has to be robust to these issues.

Fortunately, we’ve already developed encoding algorithms that stand up to data loss. The authors went with Fountain codes, which allow packet-based data to be transmitted over networks where some of the packets get lost. Fountain encoded data is minimally redundant, in that it doesn’t hold duplicates of all the original data. Still, it allows the original message to be reconstructed even if some fraction of the packets are lost. The more packets you send, the easier it becomes to reconstruct the original data.

So the authors devised a system in which data is fountain encoded, creating lots of small packets. These packets are then encoded as DNA sequences. An algorithm then scans the results and eliminates any DNA sequences that are going to cause problems, like ones with a long run of As. Since you can always make more packets, this is repeated until there’s enough DNA sequences to give you the sort of robustness you’d want.More.

It was all just an accident that took off, see…

See also: Discovery of 7 times higher complexity of protein folding!

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2 Replies to “Can information such as movies be stuffed into DNA?

  1. 1
    WitnessFTP says:

    Full disclosure: I’m a Software Engineer by trade.

    Not only did they encode a movie in the DNA, they also encoded (amongst other things) a computer operating system. As proof of concept of the efficiency of the DNA fountain algorithm, they then read back the DNA and booted a virtual machine with it. The link below shows the OS boot up as well as demonstrating that it is a “working” OS – someone plays Minesweeper and opens a text editor.

    http://dnafountain.teamerlich.org/

    I immediately saw this as, not only evidence for, but as close to absolute proof as one can get, that the cell/DNA is intelligently designed. I’m not ashamed to say that tears welled up in my eyes when the VM booted up.

    What the scientists did here was mimic, in a very crude manner, what occurs “naturally” in the cell. If what Yaniv Erlich’s team did required intelligence, how much more so did the far more efficient workings of the cell require an intelligence to engineer?

  2. 2

    WitnessFTP
    Thanks for your reply here. It inspired me to reflect on my own software experiences and how they fit with my own view on the Intelligent Design of the cell and DNA.

    https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2017/03/08/can-information-such-as-movies-be-stuffed-into-dna/

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