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Bacterial DVD Holds 50TB 268

CAMags writes to tell us that a Harvard Professor is claiming to have developed a new variant of a protein called bacteriorhodopsin (bR) that, when layered on a DVD, can store up to 50TB of data. From the article: "The light-activated protein is found in the membrane of a salt marsh microbe Halobacterium salinarum and is also known as bacteriorhodopsin (bR). It captures and stores sunlight to convert it to chemical energy. When light shines on bR, it is converted to a series of intermediate molecules each with a unique shape and color before returning to its 'ground state.'"
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Bacterial DVD Holds 50TB

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  • My God! (Score:5, Funny)

    by helioquake ( 841463 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:07PM (#15701321) Journal
    It's alive!
  • remember... (Score:5, Funny)

    by justkarl ( 775856 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:08PM (#15701325)
    bacteria, not a virus. Your data's safe.

    ....or is it? MWAHAHAHA!!!
  • by DaveM753 ( 844913 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:08PM (#15701331)
    I heard they're buggy.
  • See... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:10PM (#15701349)
    My apartment isn't messy -- it's just data backup.
  • by nganju ( 821034 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:12PM (#15701361)

    ... is Venkatesan Renugopalakrishnan. His main motivation is to create a storage system big enough to fit his name on a single disc.

    Disclaimer: I'm Indian as well.
  • by Goblez ( 928516 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:13PM (#15701368)
    About 10-15 years ago when I was just a young one, about time we see some harnessing of biological complexity for our own use.

    Now I want to program in RNA so that it generates the DNA automatically for me. And then, watch the ____ out!

  • by oliana ( 181649 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:13PM (#15701371) Homepage
    Just a bottle of Lysol.
  • by Red Samurai ( 893134 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:15PM (#15701383)
    It's probably gonna be extremely impractical and mega expensive. We'll have forgotten about it in 36 hours anyway.
  • It's all good and well, but who can stand the smell?
  • Drawback ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c_fel ( 927677 )
    FTA :

    However, there's a flip side to it also.
    "Science can be used and abused. Making large amounts of information so portable on high-capacity removable storage devices will make it easier for information to fall into the wrong hands. Information can be stolen very quickly. One has to have some safeguards there," he added.

    It's funny, it reminds me the answer I gave to the interviewer at my first interview :

    - Now that you tell me your qualities, I will ask you at least a drawback

    - Mmmh, I think
    • I got that question, too. All I could think of at that point was Trainspotting and gave the same answer.

      FWIW I did not get the jorb. Just as well, I like the one I'm at better.
    • by SashaMan ( 263632 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:39PM (#15701581)
      I think I'm too perfectionnist

      Good thing it wasn't a written interview.
    • by thesandtiger ( 819476 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @07:03PM (#15702138)
      That's not a very good answer - it reveals a bunch of negatives that are likely deal-breakers:

      1) You're a perfectionist, which means you may find it difficult to handle mistakes made by co-workers.
      2) You're a perfectionist, which means you may find it difficult working on a team with people who are not perfectionists.
      3) You're an admitted perfectionist, which makes it likely that you will attempt to cover up any mistakes you do make, rather than admit them.
      4) You're a perfectionist and you take extra time to try to accomplish a task, rather than doing it as well as it needs to be done and having it in on time. Most employers don't expect or actually want perfection - they know it isn't attainable.
      5) You're full of shit and just told the interviewer what you thought they'd want to hear, meaning that you're much less likely to be candid in other areas as well.

      The best answer, of course, would have been "FUCK YOU YOU CUNT I have Tourette's Syndrome ASSLICKER!" It would allow you to scream anything you like with impunity, and they'd be worried about getting sued if they didn't hire you.
  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:19PM (#15701420) Journal
    I remember this stuff from the mid 90's. They were layering it on WORMs back then.
  • Will Sony add it to the PS3 so they can finally push the price to 4 digits?
  • "Prof Renugopalakrishnan now opines that the protein layer could also allow DVDs and other external devices to store terabytes of information."

    In other words, Duke Nuke'em Forever will be released on these discs.

    Can you say vapor ware?
  • by basil montreal ( 714771 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:20PM (#15701434) Homepage
    Any time you use an organic compound for storage, you need to worry about the organic half life of the device. Writable optical media uses organic dye, and will only last several years in storage. I didn't see anything in the article that indicated this technology would be any better...
  • Caveats? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:22PM (#15701451) Journal
    Now I wonder what caveats are there to overcome.

    Normal CDs are actually "damaged" by the laser during recording. Here it's about photochemical effect. Much lower power may be needed which may allow for more data but also for really fast erasing the DVDs by simply exposing them to light. More, how to return it to base state? Seems not to be rewritable. The data lasts a few years. Would there be some "refreshing process" needed?

    And last but not least: Is there anyone interested in manufacturing it, or will the harddrive makers buy the patent, then bury it to prevent competition?
    There were quite a few such "revelations" like TESA-ROM (1TB on a roll of transparent adhesive tape) but they all vanish without trace... why?
    • Re:Caveats? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      There were quite a few such "revelations" like TESA-ROM (1TB on a roll of transparent adhesive tape) but they all vanish without trace... why?

      Because they learned that making something work in a lab in small amounts is very different from mass manufacturing it for popular use.
    • of someone buying a patent to "bury" a good technology. Just about every elementary economics textbook clearly demonstrates how that if the technology truly has a benefit, the company would make MORE money by using the new technology than hiding it.
      • That's true as far as it goes, which is right out the window.

        If we can agree that fuel efficient cars were are a good idea now, they would have been an even better idea in the 70's (or earlier). It might have even made a significant impact by now.

        We didn't, and it wasn't because we couldn't.

        The real myth is that textbooks provide hard rules that actually translate universally into the real word. If people were satisfied with following the rules, we'd all be communists.
        • example is one most often cited and quickly refuted. If Exxon, or anyone else, had such a device, they could make far more money selling the engine than the oil - a LOT more. So much, in fact, that any tiny market imperfection would be dwarfed and correspondingly ignored.

          Think about it this way - if Exxon could build an engine that saved me 1000 gallons of gas over the lifetime of my car, I should be willing to pay at least a $2000 premium for it, right?

          Now, how much money does Exxon make selling me
          • You're comparing $2000 in sales to $300 in margin. If you're going to compare sales to sales, then it's $2000 vs $3000. Even if you compared margin to margin, I would suspect they would be in the same ballpark as well.
          • Exxon has huge infrastructure of refineries, tankers, oil fields. This all would go worthless the moment they start selling these cars.

            Junk all the tankers. Sell worthless oil fields. Shut down the useless refineries. Build infrastructure for the new cars. And explain to your competition that they should shift from mining oil to growing corn instead of uniting and performing a hostile takeover. Exxon might start making more money per unit sold, but their current property becomes worthless. Would you rather
            • And even if they did, Exxon is getting a 10:1 trade. I am sure Exxon would be willing to let all of its oil fields disappear into the void if I could make ten times as much selling cars.

              You need to rephrase your numbers...would I rather have one million in capital, depreciating to zero over five years (standard assumption for a corporation) and making $30k/year, or scrap the capital few hundred thousand and license for my new patent to GM and Ford for $250k/year? You are being confused by sunk costs.
          • So you'd rather own a car company than an oil company?

            Exxon pulls in $10 billion in profit a quarter - thanks to goings on in the Middle East.

            So with 17 million cars sold in the US in 2005, if Exxon made that $2000 premium on every single one of them they'd still pull in less than their current profits from oil.

      • Well, it is not so stupid. You wouldn't buy good tech to bury it if it were
        clearly better. You bury it if it has long term potential but is not competitive
        yet. A classic example is the Einstein/Szilard refrigerator. It was kinda sorta
        competitive with existing designs, but it had a major flaw - ammonia leaks were
        a big problem. This is the kind of stuff you eliminate with a bit more R&D and then
        you have a competitor to the best fridges. Instead Electrolux bought it and buried
        it, precisely by not investing
      • You should tell that to DeBeers, who's entire business model is artificial scarcity of a dirt-cheap mineral.

        You can, in-fact, make money by supressing a lower-margin product than your own. It doesn't always work that way, but it's certainly not impossible.
        • or technology? Yes, they keep an aura of sentimentality around "natural" diamonds in order to keep the prices high in the face of cheaper synthetics, but that is a different issue - taking advantage of customer irrationality. Reminds me a lot of Whole Foods and the like, actually.
    • Why wouldn't the hard drive company buy it and use it? If they buried it, they would make no money, and be in the same place they were. If they used it, they would get far ahead of the competition, make tons of money, and the CEO would get a new yacht.
      • Because "we" would have to invest $5bln in a new factory producing it, and won't see any profit from it for next 4 years until it's developed to usable form. And the investment would return itself in maybe 20 years. Our harddrive sales would drop rapidly too, even if outweighted by profit from sales of the new disks. Currently our sales of harddisks are going well now but we aren't nearly ready for such an investment.

        But if a competing company bought the patent, spent $5bln on making it to work, then releas
  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:26PM (#15701488)
    Imagine the datarate if I were to hop into my car, drive across the country, and load this disk into a computer in California.

    Even if the trip takes me 48 hours, that is still 303 MB/s!
    • by bcat24 ( 914105 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:41PM (#15701600) Homepage Journal
      Yeah, but just think of the ping times.

      • dn2120a:~ moe$ ping almaden.ibm.com
        PING almaden.ibm.com ( 56 data bytes
        64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=47 time=187295623.931 ms
        64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=47 time=176477755.816 ms
        64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=47 time=169536790.894 ms
        64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=47 time=170008876.973 ms
        --- almaden.ibm.com ping statistics ---
        4 packets transmitted, 4 packets received, 0% packet loss
        round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 169536790.894/175829761.904/187295623.
    • You could fit at least one thousand in most cars, and probably one million in a semi-truck. So 303 TB/s.
    • There's an easier way to do this. Just sneeze on some unsuspecting passenger headed to LAX, send their description to your recipient, and then have them steal the passenger's handkerchief upon arrival in Los Angeles. Then just wipe the handkerchief on an empty Agar-DVD, and presto!

      Saves on gas, too.
    • You can drive the width of the continental USA in 48 hours? Wow.
      • You can drive the width of the continental USA in 48 hours? Wow

        A friend of mine did this (not sure exactly how long it took him, but it was basically non-stop from Los Angeles to Boston), sustaining himself solely on Jolt (sic) soda, clove cigarettes, and an old Bob Segar tape. And oh yeah, he's a non-stop talker who just waits for you to finish so he can start talking again, about whatever it is that interests him.

        I imagined being in the car with him for the trip. If that's not hell on earth, I don't

  • 50 TB? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:29PM (#15701513) Homepage
    I wonder why these numbers are so greatly exaggerated. Why can't scientists leave the theoretical figures behind and talk about realistic numbers?

    Anyway, once we actually reach data storage of that magnitude on a disk, we'll have to face the problem of seek time and transfers. It would be ridiculous to post so much data on a disk, so when this technology is mature, I'm sure disks will be obsolete.

    Scientists should spend more time on figuring out how to leave the world of milliseconds and approach the nanoseconds. Remember, the only thing that's running on milliseconds in a computer is based on platters. I'd rather move on from that and get my 50 TB later.
    • Re:50 TB? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SEMW ( 967629 )
      >I wonder why these numbers are so greatly exaggerated. Why can't scientists
      >leave the theoretical figures behind and talk about realistic numbers?

      Did you RTFA? This is a discovery. There are no realistic numbers because the product doesn't actually exist yet, and probably won't in a useable form for quite some time. The only thing they've actually done so far is the genetic modification of the protein. The numbers are theoretical because the disc is theoretical.
    • Re:50 TB? (Score:3, Informative)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )

      I wonder why these numbers are so greatly exaggerated.

      I wonder how you know these numbers are exaggerated.

      Anyway, once we actually reach data storage of that magnitude on a disk, we'll have to face the problem of seek time and transfers.

      That's not a huge hurdle. I can easily envision a drive with more than a dozen fully-independant laser assemblies. Not only do you get 12X+ throughput, but you can get seek times ~12X faster/smaller. And if you get desperate for performance, you can spin that platter of l

  • to clean your DVD's.
  • Bacteria... (Score:3, Funny)

    by TrevorB ( 57780 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:34PM (#15701541) Homepage
    Why don't we just store all our data in strands of DNA and be done with it.

    Then we could carry arround our entire porn collection in a small cancerous lump on our neck. ;)
    • Does it have to be cancerous? How about a nice, non-cancerous lump on my neck? I mean you wouldn't want the host to expire prematurely - then what would become of the precious, err, data?

      Then again, what with the cancerous cells all replicating out of control, you wouldn't to do manual backups, would you now. That is certainly something to concider.
  • 50 TB should be enough for anybody.

    Good ol' Bill.

  • Extent (Score:2, Funny)

    by eronysis ( 928181 )
    PFY to BOFH "The database is growing too fast!" BOFH "Stop feeding it."
  • Vaporware (Score:2, Informative)

    by loxosceles ( 580563 )
    I remember reading about this compound or something very similar back in ~1995, in one of the popular science or computing magazines. It claimed there would be organic 3d memory cubes in 8 years.
  • Announce a new product [slashdot.org] and get obsoleted a few hours later.

    These guys just can't win...

  • Interesting: anti-biotics and hostile microbial interaction, (and light itself) could endanger the data.
    I wonder how carefully these 'discs' would have to be stored?
  • by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:08PM (#15701761) Homepage Journal
    In a related story, MPAA requests an injunction against a harvard professor in attempt to block production of a 50TB storage device for consumer PCs. When asked for the basis for such action, an MPAA spokesperson stated "There is absolutely no legitimate use for such large amounts of storage, the only use we can ascertain is hosting of illegal movie downloads for re-sharing on P2P networks."
  • ...oops, it's not readable anymore.
  • I have a obsessive compulsive disorder over germs (you insensitive clod).

  • Storing Windows Vista on a disc using bacteria...
    Sounds like a suitable medium for the data...
  • If there are multiple intermediate states, could more than one be used by the device? Instead of base 2, could it use base 3 or higher?
  • WOW.... 50TB of porn on a single disc. That's a lot of hot XXX action. You could put an entire internet's worth of porn on one disc. hmmmmm.... 1) Get hold of 'bacteria-ray' discs. 2) Download all internet (Or just get Slashdotter to bittorrent their stashes-same thing) 3) ?????? 4) Profit!!
  • His claim of terabyte storage shows an extreme naivety (or one could argue ignorance) of fundamental physical principles the good doctor should be aware of. It is true that there must be some medium capable of handling data storage on such a small scale, but the real hang-up, at least in terms of commercial viability, is the light source which reads the medium. Any dolt who knows next to nothing about high definition dvd's at least knows the major technological innovation involved is a commercially availa
    • Doh, making myself look as big an idiot as Dr V. The property of bacteriorhodopsin he's manipulating involves absorption/reflection in the visible spectrum, meaning you must use a visible light source to read/write... meaning you won't ever be able to use rhodopsin to read at the ~1nm length scale, because you can't focus a 400nm wavelength spot to 1nm. A focused, soft x-ray source does you no good. What an idiot (him and me both).
  • by Edge00 ( 880722 )
    For the love of Pete, its Halobacterium salinarum. Can we please use latin binomials properly.
  • 50TB, hm, lets see, that should be about the right amount of space to save a lifetime of MP3 in decent quality (1min ~ 1MB, 100y*365d*24h*60m -> 52'560'000), probally even a bit of video when better compression is used. Could be interesting when one day we have enough space to store absolutly everything we see and hear on a single disk, your whole memory on disk.
  • OT: Small World... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @08:23PM (#15702532) Journal
    From TFA:
    Sydney, Jul 8 (ANI): An Indian born scientist in the US is working on

    Does anyone else find it ironic that /. (which is a US-based site--with readers from around the world) posts a link to an article from an Australia news site, talking about developments of an Indian-born scientist, working in the US?

"I shall expect a chemical cure for psychopathic behavior by 10 A.M. tomorrow, or I'll have your guts for spaghetti." -- a comic panel by Cotham