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the genome is out of the bottle

THEY say everyone has a novel inside them – and now that may be literally true.

And not just a novel, but a whole library and perhaps a couple of concert halls too.

Scientists in Cambridge have apparently spelled out all of Shakespeare's sonnets in DNA (warning: next two sentences incomprehensible: you might want to make tea and rejoin us a little lower down). They used a code that turns every block of eight numbers in a digital code into five letters of DNA. Simple. Thus "thou" from "thou art more lovely and more temperate" becomes TAGATGTGTACAGACTACGC. At least, that's what they say.

Word of advice here: do not try this on a Valentine's Card. It simply won't work. Frankly, writing "How I do I Qwerty U iop, let me count the ways" is more romantic.

The scientists also did the same with an audio file of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. The implications are staggering. You'll stagger under the implications. As the great Bard himself put it: "Is this a stagger I see before me?" For it seems that a few specks of DNA could potentially store the National Library.

This changes the whole way we see ourselves. The next time someone tells you to stop biting your nails, you are quite within your rights to say: "Biting my nails? Biting my nails? I'll have you know that I am editing my novel. Look [points to tiny comma of nail on the table] – that's the first 10 chapters right there."

When people point out that you are sweating, you can reply\; "That's not sweat. That's my symphony, you fool. This is what Handel meant by Water Music." When Louis Armstrong sang "What a Wonderful Whorl", he was talking about the music that exists in the DNA contours of your fingertips. Isn't that obvious?

This DNA storage opens the way for what you might call literary impregnation. Artificial literary insemination even. The genome is clearly out of the bottle. We're looking at a whole generation of test tube novelists, incubated composers. "We're hoping she's going to be a writer, so we've got a dash of Pride and Prejudice and a little Mill on the Floss." "We think he's musical, so we've got a little Debussy and a touch of Tchaikovsky."

Mind you, get the DNA sequence wrong and you could end up with Finnegan's Wake. Or Justin Bieber.

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