Science and Technology

Sound of science 

M Ramesh | Updated on: May 29, 2022
Start-up idea: Finding the ‘melody’ in a DNA sequence

Start-up idea: Finding the ‘melody’ in a DNA sequence | Photo Credit: janiecbros

Why researchers are converting data into tunes

Science — at least, data science — could have a sound.  

If you have a large set of data and there are patterns hidden in it, finding them could be overwhelming. Of course, computers can do it for you, but scientists are toying with another way — music.  

Suppose you assign a musical note to each data point and play them on an instrument, you can actually hear the data. A trained musical ear can identify patterns or spot an anomaly. 

This idea has given birth to a startup, Your DNA Song Ltd, which can get your DNA sequence translated into a song — like a signature, it is unique to you. This is done by assigning notes to each of the four bases that repeat uniquely to form a person’s DNA, and then playing the notes. Your DNA is a sequence of bases; a tune is a sequence of notes — an observation made by Dr David Deamer, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Cruz, who is thought of as a pioneer in molecular music. 

Your DNA can be your own personal song. 

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Your DNA Song Ltd observes on its website that geneticists have found it easier to read the long strands of DNA code by assigning musical pitches to the 22 amino acids. “This allowed them to compare DNA, look for mutations and reverse-engineer the tones back into proteins,” it says, adding that DNA music is now a new form and medium of the music industry. 

In a recent report, the Smithsonian says that experts from various fields have “sonified” viruses, hormones, proteins, spider webs and even flames, using a variety of techniques. Some, like Your DNA Song Ltd, have turned their efforts into commercial enterprises.  

Extending the principle, in this data-centric world, any set of data can be converted into a tune or a melody. To a data scientist, this should be, literally, music to the ears. 

Published on May 29, 2022
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