The Quest for More Storage

Pretty much everyone who downloads content has had some storage problems of some kind. We all want the “best of the best” flashdrive or hard drive with a shocking 2 TB! Woah!

But what most people don’t know… is that each person has billions upon billions of the best storage device in history: DNA.

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, and it’s like the blueprint of our cells and bodies. It codes how our body looks, whether we will have certain conditions like eczema, and is the basis of all cells (and if cells are the building blocks of life, then DNA is the foundation of all life). But when you think about it, your cells are small. Really small. In fact, they’re so small that the average spider or ant can contain thousands of these cells. And DNA is even smaller than that.

So how does this microscopic little strand of molecules binding together code for our entire body? Because every cell has a set.

That’s the secret of nature.

DNA’s information density is so high, you can store billions of encyclopedia’s worth of information in one drop of DNA. Just a drop, about the size of the drops you find on a soda can. That’s crazy!

Biologists are working hard to find out how to use this for practical purposes. All DNA is made up of four kinds of chemicals: cytosine, guanine, thymine, and adenine. These four chemicals (abbreviated C, G, T, and A, respectively) link up in very specific chains.

Adenine and thymine tend to bond together well. So do cytosine and guanine. So that makes an AT combo, and a CG combo. Two options. Sound familiar?

If you’re a techie, it should. It’s just like binary! AT could represent 0, and CG can represent 1. If this is replicated over and over and over in the DNA polymer, then you can have billions of these pairs all in a very concise space.

Replicate it in the order of the trillions, and you have a trillion bits of info, or 125000000000 bytes. That’s almost a terabyte! And on the molecular scale, this terabyte of info we have here can be compressed into just a few nanometers across!

Nature is amazing at what it does. It can meticulously pair trillions of molecules together to make us, a human being. That’s kind of humbling, when you think about it.


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