Everyone likes to feel like they have a legacy, nobody wants to shuffle off the mortal coil without leaving a mark on the world.
The pyramids, great works of literature, or political infamy – these are all ways to live on after you die. For most of us, the surest way to leave a legacy is to have kids and hopefully be remembered for at least a few generations.
Of course, you could always record an international acclaimed album as DNA. I hear that’s also a pretty good way to keep your name around.
Confused? Me too.
This year, to mark the 20th anniversary, Robert Del Naja and Daddy G (the current members of the group) have collaborated with ETH Zurich to store the album in the form of nucleotides in DNA – a first in using DNA encoding techniques for commercial purposes.
Here’s how it works. The digital audio will be cut down to 15 MB using the Opus music compression format, then arranged in different combinations in order to encode information in a DNA molecule.
“While the information stored on a CD or hard disk is a sequence of zeros and ones, biology stores genetic information in a sequence of the four building blocks of DNA: A, C, G and T,” said ETH Zurich’s Professor Robert Glass.
The data will then be divided between 920,000 DNA strands before being encased in 5,000 nanometer-sized glass spheres. Then finally, the spheres will be stored in an ordinary-looking bottle of water. The entire process is expected to last two months.
Unlike the average 30-year shelf-life of a CD album, this DNA format is theoretically capable of storing information for eternity.
“This method allows us to archive the music for hundreds to thousands of years,” added Grass. “Compared to traditional data-storage systems, it is quite complex and expensive to store information on DNA.
“However, once information is stored on DNA, we can make millions of copies quickly and cost-effectively with minimal effort.”
Once the project finishes, Mezzanine will become the second-largest file stored in DNA form, just behind Microsoft, who have more than 200 megabytes stored as DNA.