DNA as a data storage medium

The project, led by Nick Goldman of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) at Hinxton, UK, marks another step towards using nucleic acids as a practical way of storing information — one that is more compact and durable than current media such as hard disks or magnetic tape.

DNA packs information into much less space than other media. For example, CERN, the European particle-physics lab near Geneva, currently stores around 90 petabytes of data on some 100 tape drives. Goldman’s method could fit all of those data into 41 grams of DNA.

The promise of extending DNA storage is largely hampered by the high cost of writing and reading DNA. The EBI team estimates that it costs around $12,400 to encode every megabyte of data, and $220 to read it back. However, these costs are falling exponentially. The technique could soon be feasible for archives that need to be maintained long term, but that will rarely be accessed, such as CERN’s data. If costs fall by 100-fold in ten years, the technique could be cost-effective if you want to store data for at least 50 years. And Church says that these estimates may be too pessimistic, as “the cost of reading and writing DNA has changed by a million-fold in the past nine years, which is unheard of even in electronics”.

via Nature News.

Just like all data storage technologies before them, the techniques are prohibitively expensive in the research domain, but costs are expected to fall quickly as consumer products are developed and newer technologies are implemented.

Deep Space Industries will venture into asteroid-mining

A new venture dubbed Deep Space Industries is jumping into the marketplace for asteroid mining — joining a billionaire-backed company called Planetary Resources in what they hope will eventually turn into a trillion-dollar business.

In a press advisory, Deep Space Industries says it will create “the world’s first fleet of commercial asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.” The venture also promises to develop a “breakthrough process for manufacturing in space.”

via Cosmic Log.

Another company has thrown their hat into the asteroid mining ring. Be sure to click through the link and look at the picture they’ve generated showing a space station being constructed next to an asteroid being mined.

Bees assault quadcopter

Hundreds of bees assaulted a drone operated by a CBS12 News crew in West Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday morning and then attacked the station’s team of journalists when they maneuvered the aircraft back toward them to figure out what was wrong. The crew sent the drone into flight in an attempt to get an aerial shot of a backhoe tearing into the Palm Beach Mall, which is in the process of being demolished. The drone, dinner-plate-sized device with four helicopter-like rotors and two cameras operated via iPhone or iPad, was assaulted by bees about a minute after takeoff. CBS12 News operations manager Carl Pugliese said the drone began having trouble flying at the same time that a ‘strange bug’ kept pestering him, getting in his hair and buzzing around him. Pugliese flew the drone closer so he could check why it was malfunctioning, and the angry bees that had formed a cloud around the drone began attacking Pugliese and CBS12 cameraman Chad Ellison, whom Pugliese captured dancing and swatting frantically to avoid being stung.


I was just introduced to the RSOE – Emergency and Disaster Information Service. Lots of interesting news that isn’t reported by conventional news sites.

Factoid Friday – Mosquito Bite

An average mosquito bite takes up 58.6 km of DNA, about 1.5 times the height that Felix Baumgartner fell on his jump from the edge of space.


  1. Mosquitoes take up an average of 5 microlitres of blood per bite. (cite)
  2. About 350 micrograms of DNA can be extracted from 10 ml of blood. (cite)
  3. On average, each DNA base pair (two nucleotides) weighs 615 daltons. (cite)
  4. On average, each DNA base pair contributes 0.34 nanometers to the length of a DNA strand. (cite)
  5. Felix Baumgartner’s free fall was estimated to be 39 kilometres. (cite)

An average mosquito will consume about 5 ul of blood, equivalent to  (5 ul / 10 ml * 350 ug = 0.175 ug) 0.175 ug of DNA. Out of the 0.175 ug of DNA from a mosquito bite, there are (.175 ug / 615 daltons * 1 base pair = 1.714*10^14 base pairs) 1.7*10^14 base pairs of DNA. Each of the DNA base pairs contributes 0.34 nm to the length of a DNA strand, so there are (1.714*10^14 base pairs * 0.34 nm = 58.3 km) 58.3 km worth of DNA in a mosquito bite. Felix Baumgartner fell an estimated 39 kilometres, so the length of DNA in a mosquito bite is (58.3 km / 39 km  = 1.4948 times ) 1.5 times the height that Baumgartner fell. For a quick check of my math, see WolframAlpha. (cite)


Factoid Fridays are tweet sized factoids with appropriate, but sometimes not peer reviewed, citations. For simplicity, I’ve left out unit conversions (i.e. micrograms to daltons), so those calculations can be considered an exercise to the reader. If you think there is an error in an assumption or calculation, please contact me.

NASA Discovers 4 New Planets Orbiting in the Habitable Zone

One of the four newly identified super Earth-size planet candidates, KOI-172.02, orbits in the habitable zone of a star similar to our sun. The possible planet is approximately 1.5 times the radius of Earth and orbits its host star every 242 days. Additional follow-up analysis will be required to confirm the candidate as a planet.

NASA’S Kepler Mission Discovers 461 New Planet Candidates.

Ho-ly balls. Out of the 461 new planetary candidates added by the Kepler space telescope, 4 of them orbit in their star’s habitable zone.