Today's news, tomorrow’s lesson - New science book created in DNA coding

Scientists have created the first book encoded entirely in DNA, marking the first time that such a large amount of information has been stored in such a way. The experiment, conducted at Harvard University and published in the journal Science, took advantage of the ability of genetic molecules to store large amounts of information.

Today's news, tomorrow’s lesson - 17 August

Digital data faces biological competition with the world’s first DNA book


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Scientists have created the first book encoded entirely in DNA, marking the first time that such a large amount of information has been stored in such a way. The experiment, conducted at Harvard University and published in the journal Science, took advantage of the ability of genetic molecules to store large amounts of information.

The book was a draft online version of a text co-edited by lead investigator George Church that included over 53,000 words and 11 images.

In order to encode the book into DNA, researchers translated the computing language binary – a system of ones and zeros – into the DNA bases of A, G, C and T. Scientists then used DNA sequencing to read the data.

Although the technique is a long way from commercial release, DNA storage has several advantages over digital alternatives; it can last longer, and it has more capacity for storage than chips and USB drives. Professor Church told The Wall Street Journal that "a device the size of your thumb could store as much information as the whole Internet".

The book is not the first example of data being coded into DNA; examples go back as far as 2003, when American scientists coded the tune to Walt Disney’s “It’s a Small World After All” into the DNA of micro-organisms it had created.

Questions for discussion


  • If you could preserve something for centuries, what would you choose?
  • How would you like people to remember you in one hundred years time?
  • DNA determines everything about us and is passed on through our genes. In what ways are you similar to other members of your family?
  • How do you imagine this technology might develop in the future?


Related resources


Beginner’s genetics

  • Explain DNA sequences and how we come to look like we do with this PowerPoint introduction to genetics.

Graphic genes

  • Colourful cartoon graphics and a quiz help students get to grips with genetic theory in this science lesson.

Writing DNA

  • Get students speaking the language of genetics with this presentation on transcription and translation.

Genetic engineering

  • Understand the science behind genetic development with this lesson.

Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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A women-only city is being built in Saudi Arabia in a bid to allow more females to pursue careers.

A strong gold medal haul for Team GB during London 2012 has led to a busy week for the Royal Mail, which is painting postboxes across the country gold in honour of the success of Britain’s athletes.

Headlines were generated with the story that the government had scrapped a target for schools to provide two hours a week of PE.




In the news archive index