Scientists hid encryption key for Wizard of Oz text in plastic molecules

Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin encrypted the key to decode text of the <em>The Wizard of Oz</em> in polymers.

Enlarge / Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin encrypted the key to decode text of the The Wizard of Oz in polymers. (credit: S.D. Dahlhauser et al., 2022)

Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin sent a letter to colleagues in Massachusetts with a secret message: an encryption key to unlock a text file of L. Frank Baum’s classic novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The twist: The encryption key was hidden in a special ink laced with polymers, They described their work in a recent paper published in the journal ACS Central Science.

When it comes to alternative means for data storage and retrieval, the goal is to store data in the smallest amount of space in a durable and readable format. Among polymers, DNA has long been the front runner in that regard. As we’ve reported previously, DNA has four chemical building blocks—adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C)—which constitute a type of code. Information can be stored in DNA by converting the data from binary code to a base-4 code and assigning it one of the four letters. A single gram of DNA can represent nearly 1 billion terabytes (1 zettabyte) of data. And the stored data can be preserved for long periods—decades, or even centuries.

There have been some inventive twists on the basic method for DNA storage in recent years. For instance, in 2019, scientists successfully fabricated a 3D-printed version of the Stanford bunny—a common test model in 3D computer graphics—that stored the printing instructions to reproduce the bunny. The bunny holds about 100 kilobytes of data, thanks to the addition of DNA-containing nanobeads to the plastic used to 3D print it. And scientists at the University of Washington recently recorded K-Pop lyrics directly onto living cells using a “DNA typewriter.”

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#chemistry, #cryptography, #digital-encryption, #digital-keys, #molecular-encryption, #polymers, #science

This Ink Is Alive and Made Entirely of Microbes

Scientists have created a bacterial ink that reproduces itself and can be 3D-printed into living architecture.

#3-d-printers, #e-coli-bacteria, #genetic-engineering, #microbiology, #nature-communications-journal, #polymers, #sustainable-living, #synthetic-biology, #your-feed-science

Robert Gore, Inventor of Gore-Tex, Is Dead at 83

Experiments with a polymer led him to create the breathable, waterproof material used in numerous applications, including ski jackets and medical implants.

#deaths-obituaries, #gore-tex, #gore-robert, #gore-w-lassociates, #inventions-and-patents, #polymers, #teflon

Here’s why “baking” damaged reel-to-reel tapes renders them playable again

Stock photograph of reel-to-reel tape deck.

Enlarge / Audio buffs are rediscovering the sound quality of reel-to-reel tapes. Chemists at the Library of Congress are studying why the tapes tend to degrade over time and why baking them can often reverse the damage. (credit: Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)

Reel-to-reel tapes are experiencing a resurgence of interest among audio buffs, but they are prone to degradation, which has been a topic of active research for many years. It’s well known that applying heat can often reverse the damage sufficiently to enable playback, usually by baking the tapes in an oven. Now scientists at the US Library of Congress have determined precisely why this method seems to work, presenting their findings earlier this month on the American Chemical Society’s SciMeetings online platform.

Project leader Andrew Davis is a polymer chemist who works in the LOC’s preservation research and testing division. The LOC’s mission is to ensure its collections continue to be accessible to the public, either in their original or reformatted mediums. The R&D division is responsible for providing the scientific groundwork for that mission, similar to how the Smithsonian Institute employs research scientists to maintain its collections.

“We span everything from simple analytical tests, like determining the kind of ink used on paper, to testing all building and construction materials, and ensuring the stickers on the barcodes don’t damage books,” Davis told Ars.

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#chemistry, #gaming-culture, #phase-transitions, #physics, #polymers, #reel-to-reel-tapes, #science