The Atlantic

This Speck of DNA Contains a Movie, a Computer Virus, and an Amazon Gift Card

Meet the storage format that never goes obsolete.
Source: New York Genome Center

In 1895, the Lumiere Brothers—among the first filmmakers in history released a movie called The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station. Just 50 seconds long, it consists of a silent, unbroken, monochrome shot of a train pulling into a platform full of people. It was a vivid example of the power of “animated photographs”, as one viewer described them. Now, 122 years later, The Arrival of a Train is breaking new ground again. It has just become one of the first movies to be stored in DNA.

In the famous double-helices of life’s fundamental molecule, Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski from the New York Genome Center and Columbia University encoded the movie, along with a computer operating system, a photo, a scientific paper, a computer virus, and an Amazon gift card.

They used a new strategy, based on the codes that allow

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic5 min read
Corporate Landlords Aren’t the Real Culprit
They get away with raising rents in places where local regulations impede the construction of new apartments.
The Atlantic14 min readPolitics
The Undocumented Agent
After spending nearly two decades facilitating deportations as a Customs and Border Protection officer, Raul Rodriguez discovered that he was not a U.S. citizen. Now he’s at risk of deportation himself.
The Atlantic8 min readPolitics
China Wants Food. Brazil Pays the Price.
National efforts to strengthen food security have an impact far beyond any single country’s borders.