Cool!Medical Mysteries of Music

“Smoke on the Water” Has Been Stored in Human DNA. Wait–What?

Since its release n 1972, Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” has appeared on vinyl, 8-track, cassette, CD and all matter of digital files. Now, it’s been recorded on human DNA.

And I don’t mean the instinctive need for young guitar douchebags to riff on the song while trying out guitars they’ll never buy from the local music store. In this case, DNA is the recording medium for the actual Deep Purple audio.

Working with Microsoft and a company called Twist Bioscience, researchers at the University of Washington were able to imprint this recording from the Montreux Jazz Festival into DNA by transmuting the zeroes and ones of a digital file into adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine, the As, Ts, Cs and Gs that form the building blogs of the DNA molecule.

Why would anyone want to do this? Because DNA is remarkably tough and long-lasting. Remember what they did with the dinosaur blood taken from that amber-bound mosquito in Jurassic Park? Yep, the data lasts forever, unlike normal digital data which degrades over time. Even vinyl will start to die after a couple of hundred years. Plus the amount of storage available with this kind of DNA archiving is astounding.

The Deep Purple exercise was really just a proof of concept. Could digital material be encoded into DNA and then played back without error? The answer is “yes.”

So what comes next? Perhaps transliterating exabytes of data into DNA for long, long, LONG-term storage. After all, recording mediums come and go. Try and find an Edison phonograph to play a cylinder. Hell, even if you could find a working 8-track player, chances are the tape would be so dried out it would be uplayable. DNA, the other hand, will always be DNA. DNA is forever.

Read more at the CBC. (Via Larry)

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37921 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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