Today’s information-based society is still confronted by an essential problem: How can digital data be stored to memory for 10, 100 or even 1,000 years without having to transfer it periodically to new data storage media? But this fear of memory loss could soon be a thing of the past, since nature itself holds the key to sustainably storing information: DNA. It takes up hardly any space, doesn’t have to be constantly supplied with energy, and can conserve information error-free over hundreds of generations. For example, a single gram of DNA has enough memory capacity for 700 terrabytes of data! Researchers are now working to reduce both the cost of this wonderful data storage medium and the time it takes to access the information it contains.

Here, you can convert your name or some other series of characters into a DNA sequence and simultaneously see how much you would have to pay today to have this done in a lab. Each character, each letter, is first converted into the corresponding ASCII code or, rather, into an eight-figure binary number (that equals 1 byte). Then, Bits2DNA, an algorithm developed by molecular biologist George Church, converts this sequence of zeroes and ones into a sequence of nucleic bases, whereby a 0 becomes A or C, and a 1 becomes T or G. In order to assure the stability of the DNA, the algorithm is set up to avoid generating over three identical nucleic bases in a row (e.g. AAA).

Example: The letter “a” is assigned ASCII code 65, expressed in base 2 notation as 01000001, which translates into the DNA sequence AGACCCAG.

Artistic Direction: Hideaki Ogawa (JP)
Original Concept: Matthew Gardiner (AU)
Programming: Deniz Saglam, Veronika Pauser (AT), Matthew Gardiner (AU)
Original Bits2DNA Algorithm: George Church (US)