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Long-Term Storage

To leave messages for future generations, DNA-based storage may be the way to go, as shards of DNA tracing back some 700,000 years have been uncovered.

As the New Scientist reports, researchers like Robert Grass from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and his colleagues are mimicking the conditions under which scientists have found ancient DNA to try to store information for the future. Grass and his colleagues encoded two historical documents — the Swiss Federal Charter from 1291 and the English translation of the Method of Archimedes — into DNA with As and Cs serving as 0s and Gs and Ts as 1s, the New Scientist reports.

They then kept these DNA-based documents at various temperatures for a week within glass, and report in Angewandte Chemie that their results indicate that data could be stored in DNA for some 2,000 years at 10°C in Zurich or for 2 million years at -18°C in the Global Seed Vault.

As it's a bit too expensive currently to just encode the contents of Wikipedia into DNA, Grass tells the New Scientist that such projects should try to guess what sort of information would be most useful to future historians and encode that.

"If you look at how we look at the Middle Ages, it's very influenced by what information has been stored," he says. "It's very important that we get a relatively neutral documentation of our current time and store that."