NanoRosetta; a Kickstarter archiving project for the human genome

The NanoRosetta Kickstarter project needs to raise $100,000 by June 2, 2013 if the organizers are to shrink the human genome to the nanoscale and archive it by printing  it on five nickel discs which will be good for 10,000 years. From the NanoRosetta campaign page,

NanoRosetta is seeking to bring the archival industry into the modern age by using nanotechnology to print analog information onto nickel discs. With a life-span of 10,000 years, no other technology can match the durability and longevity of these discs, and because of the microscopic size of the images printed on the discs, we are able to print high volumes of data that were once thought to be unprintable.

To showcase this paradigm-shifting technology, we are seeking to print multiple sets of all 3.2 BILLION characters of the Human genome on five nickel discs about the size of CDs. Previously, this task would have required a room of books to archive the information as analog data.

Storing this information digitally may be effective in the short term, but for the purposes of long-term archiving, the computer, the operating system and the software would also need to be archived equally well. This is the Achilles heel of digital archiving, and the reason why an analog system is the only way to properly archive important data.

Such passion for archiving warms my heart and I love this notion which reminds me of certain types of science fiction novels (from NanoRosetta campaign page),

No matter how well something is stored, it is always susceptible to a single point of failure.

This is where you come in.

With 80 custodians of the Human genome, with at least one custodian located on each continent, we can avoid the problem of a single point of failure and give you a unique piece to hang on your wall.

After the campaign started in early April, the team partnered with the Moon Arts Project with a plan to send the discs into outer space,

This Kickstarter has just gone from a 10,000 year archiving project to a 1 Billion year archiving project! Thanks to the vision of Lowry Burgess, the former dean of the College of Fine Arts at Carnegie Mellon University and head of the mission’s Moon Arts Project, the university’s engineers and artists have made room for the Human genome discs on their lunar lander.

“One of these days, one of these days…” 

Launching in 2015.

More information on the university’s mission, their status, and the Moon Arts Project can be found at:

As for the original Rosetta Stone which provides the inspiration for this project, here’s a little information from its Wikipedia essay (Note: Links have been removed),

Originally displayed within a temple, the stone was probably moved during the early Christian or medieval period and eventually used as building material in the construction of Fort Julien near the town of Rashid (Rosetta) in the Nile Delta. It was rediscovered there in 1799 by a soldier, Pierre-François Bouchard, of the French expedition to Egypt. As the first Ancient Egyptian bilingual text recovered in modern times, the Rosetta Stone aroused widespread public interest with its potential to decipher this hitherto untranslated ancient language. Lithographic copies and plaster casts began circulating among European museums and scholars. Meanwhile, British troops defeated the French in Egypt in 1801, and the original stone came into British possession under the Capitulation of Alexandria. Transported to London, it has been on public display at the British Museum since 1802. It is the most-visited object in the British Museum.

The NanoRosetta team has created a campaign video,

For those who like to know something about the people behind a project, this team doesn’t provide much information (from the campaign page),

Bruce Ha, John Bishop, and Jakub Svec make up the NanoRosetta team bringing technical expertise and the archiving industry together.


The team (also known as Norsam Technologies) notes on its campaign page that it has worked with the Long Now Foundation on that organization’s, The Rosetta Project.

I wish them the best of luck with NanoRosetta.

There are other pieces about archives on the blog but this Mar. 8, 2012 posting, Digital disasters, probably provides the best justifications for this NanoRosetta project.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *