The BIG idea
It is a toss-up who has more fun: the dudes who get to name the planets or the ones who dream up labels for ultra-mega data quantities.
Minor planet monikers - many of which are more than passing strange - range from the unimaginative (Beer and Apollo) to the whimsical (Gondola, as in Venetian boat).
The terabytes, petabytes, exabytes, zettabyes and yottabytes that are used to describe exponential iterations of digital data volumes seem more whimsical, but they all derive from appropriate Greek terms for numbers, monsters and the like.
All the information stored digitally in the world today is estimated at one zettabyte. A yottabyte is a quantity quite beyond imagination. At brontobytes and geopbytes, things just get silly.Advertisement
Naming quantities of information is one thing, but storing them is another. Scientists are looking at DNA for a solution.
After all, as Jonathon Keith from Monash University writes on The Conversation, the cells of human bodies are proof that vast amounts of data can be encoded within microscopic volumes.
DNA has big advantages over printed text and electronic media because it can remain stable for eons, is easy to transport and store without a power supply, and doesn't need to be periodically replaced.
Scientists at the European Bioinfomatics Institute have encoded Shakespeare's sonnets, among other things, byte by byte on synthesised DNA molecules, shipped them across the world in ordinary packaging and then recoded them.
For now, the archiving and decoding is too expensive for it to be a mainstream data storage method. The planets are aligned for that to change.
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