We built a 2020 time capsule from synthetic DNA – here’s how

Somehow, it’s the end of December. What to say about 2020? This year felt like a turning point, a rock, the end of one world and the beginning of another world. For us on The VergeThe scientific office (and so many others) has been a year in which we want to close forever and never forget.

With the end of 2020, we have decided that we want to commemorate this unreal year with a time capsule, so that whatever happens in 2021 and beyond, there will be a small resilient fragment of 2020 that future historians, scientists or space aliens can dig it up. and I wonder about. So I took a hit at distilling the values ​​of a year of scientific memories into a handful of digital files. It’s far from comprehensive, but it does tell some interesting stories.

The first part of the project was compiling the time capsule assets themselves. Here we have created a file browser, where you can click on the digital and ephemeral moments that we have included and think about what our followers could do with them.

The second challenge was to find ways to keep the files themselves for hundreds or even thousands of years. Most modern storage media – such as hard drives or flash memory – are built to be cheap, not durable. But there is only one storage medium that could keep our files safe for millennia: synthetic DNA. In recent weeks, we have been working with a team of scientists and engineers to encode our digital memories into personalized strands of DNA. The result must be seen to be believed … even if technically it is too small to actually see.

Watch the video above for the full story and here’s a new 2021.