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Massive Attack band will re-release Mezzanine in DNA format to its 20th anniversary

In one spray can fit a million copies of the album, but just because it will not listen.

Spray with synthetic DNA, which recorded the album Mezzanine. Photo Hingston Studio

In 1998, Mezzanine became the first album in history, which was published free of charge on the Internet. For the 20th anniversary of Mezzanine, the group Massive Attack decided to re-release it in a new form – in the form of a spray with artificial DNA, on which tracks are recorded. This was reported edition Wired.

A can of DNA recorded on the album will be released in limited quantities. Each spray will fit approximately one million copies of the album.

Scientists have translated each copy of the album in a sequence of 920 thousand DNA fragments and stored them in small “beads”, this process took two months. In addition to the Massive Attack spray, they will release an album cover from band member and artist Robert Del Naja, drawn using ink on Mezzanine DNA.

As Del Naya said, the album was encoded with a binary code into DNA bases – adenine, cytosine, guanine and thiamine. He noted that it would not be possible to just listen to it — you need a device that is not there yet.

If you spray the spray, and then scrape the DNA from the wall and analyze it in the right conditions, then you will be able to listen to the album again – as soon as the correct player appears.

Robert Del Naya
Massive Attack member

At the time of this writing, there is no fast, portable and cheap way to decrypt the DNA. Oxford Nanopore’s only portable MinION DNA and RNA sequencing device costs 75,000 pounds (6.4 million rubles) and can “lose” Mezzanine in a week with a powerful decoding computer.

To record the album in DNA, Massive Attack teamed up with scientists from the team TurboBeads – the commercial division of the Swiss Higher Technical School Zurich (ETH Zurich). Researchers said they used a method that came up with an American biotechnologist Craig Venter (Craig Venter).

We store digital information in a sequence of zeros and ones, but biology stores genetic information using four building blocks of DNA. We squeezed Mezzanine, and then encoded it as DNA molecules, converting the zeros and ones into the quaternary code — adenine corresponded to 00, cytosine — 01, guanine — 10, and thiamine — 11.

Robert Grass
Professor of the Swiss Higher Technical School Zurich

According to scientists, the resulting DNA in all respects resembles “natural”, but does not contain any useful genetic information. The researchers noted that the cost of translating a digital code into DNA is very high – 650 thousand dollars for 20 megabytes of data. But after the first successful translation, millions of copies can be made “more or less free.”

Band member Robert Del Naya believes that storing data in DNA has “great potential.” According to him, this will allow saving music for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Massive Attack technical consultant Andrew Melchor (Andrew Melchior) said that in the near future, in the event of an apocalypse, humanity can begin to save not only plant seeds, but also DNA. According to him, in the event of the collapse of mankind, the future civilization will not be able to use computers and human disks, but instead may build new technologies based on DNA.

Since any person carries DNA, we can expect that any future civilization will be able to understand how to get information from DNA. This means that the first thing that our descendants can learn about may be Mezzanine.

Andrew Melchor
Technical Advisor Massive Attack

The idea of ​​storing information in DNA belongs to Mikhail Neyman, a Soviet physicist who published his research in the journal Radio Engineering in 1964-65. However, the transfer of information was carried out only in 2012, when a Harvard biologist George Church (George Church) encoded his book in the DNA.

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