Fascinating small article in today's Observer entitled "How does a poet ensure his work lives for ever?":
Many artists seek to attain immortality through their art, but few would expect their work to outlast the human race and live on for billions of years. As Canadian poet Christian Bök has realised, it all comes down to the durability of your materials. Bök has written a poem, "The Xenotext", which he is inserting into the DNA of a particularly resilient form of bacteria, Deinococcus radiodurans. This extremophile bacterium can survive exposure to cold, dehydration, acid and vacuums, meaning it could live on in outer space should the Earth cease to exist.
Bök is not one to shy away from a challenge. In his most recent book, Eunoia, each chapter uses words of only one vowel. He has spent nine years researching the Xenotext project and, despite having no academic training in biochemistry, he is doing all the genetic and protein engineering himself. Using a "chemical alphabet", Bök is translating his short verse about language and genetics into a sequence of DNA, which will be implanted into the genome of the bacteria. The protein that the cell produces in response will form a second comprehensible poem.
This is not the first time someone has married art and microbiology. In 2003, US scientists inserted a DNA translation of the song "It's a Small World" into D radiodurans to show that the bacterium could be used as a means of information storage in the event of a nuclear catastrophe. Last year, the American genetic entrepreneur J Craig Venter coded a line from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – "To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life" – into DNA, only to receive a cease-and-desist letter from the notoriously litigious James Joyce estate.
Let's hope Bök will have fewer problems with "The Xenotext". He is now in the final stages of coding and a model of the protein goes on display with the two poems at the Text festival in Bury from 30 April.
Interesting stuff... here's the original article, if you want to comment.