Digital Dharma

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MUSEUMS

Online Archiving

IN JANUARY, 2015, THE SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION released a digital collection of more than 44,000 images of precious artifacts and artwork from two of their museums of Asian art, the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

According to a Smithsonian press release, the digital collection, which took several years to complete, includes around 35,000 works that have never been seen before, having been kept in museum storage for decades. The release required a massive effort to photograph and create a digital record for each object. It took almost 6,000 staff hours in the past year alone and resulted in more than ten terabytes of data.

Julian Raby, the Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, stated, “We’re poised at a digital tipping point, and the nature of what it means to be a museum is changing. We are striving to promote the love and study of Asian art, and the best way we can do so is to free our unmatched resources to inspire appreciation, academic study and artistic creation.” All of the images are provided without copyright restrictions for non-commercial use. The collection can be viewed and downloaded freely on their website. Just visit open.asia.si.edu.

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Uncommon collections: A rarely seen 1863 painting depicting Siva and Parvati with their children Ganesha and Karttikeya

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Solution To Long-term Data Storage: DNA

WITH TODAY’S SEEMINGLY LIMITLESS growth of data, a question has arisen: “How can we safely store our amassing amounts of information?” Currently, the average hard drive will fail after nine years. Many leading information companies have resorted to tape storage for their most important information, as tapes have a lifetime of about 46 years.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are attempting to produce data storage that will last much longer. Their answer is the most stable and compact data storage known to exist: DNA. Its potential to cache information is something scientists have been considering for quite sometime. One obvious benefit is its small size. In 2012 for example, a bioengineer and geneticist at Harvard’s Wyss Institute temporarily stored 5.5 petabits of data—around 700 terabytes—in a single gram of DNA. It’s also incredibly enduring. While the scientists in Zurich are trying for storage which will last at least one million years, some of the oldest DNA ever found—locked in bacteria within ancient salt deposits—was 419 million years old.

The process required the Swiss researchers to first encode binary information into nucleosbases (DNA’s information coding of four molecules, commonly known as A, T, C and G). With that, the DNA is then synthesized and encapsulated in tiny silica spheres 150 nanometers in diameter. To simulate many centuries of time, the DNA was kept at a temperature of 60–70 degrees Celsius for one month. At the end of the simulation, researchers were able to successfully read the original data from the DNA. Who knows, your computer’s new “DNAD” (Deoxyribonucleic Acid Drive) might be coming sooner than you thought.

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Writing DNA: This remarkably sturdy, organic molecule can remain readable for thousands or millions of years. Its future use for digital storage might not be far off

WORSHIP

Streaming Darshan

DEVOTEES CAN VIEW A LIVE FEED OF THE worship at the famed Sivalingam of Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, India. The camera is fixed looking down at the Sivalingam–which is usually barely discernible in its siworship at the famed Sivalingam of Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, India.The camera is fixed looking down at the Sivalingam—which is usually barely discernible in its silver enclosure—as devotees move through at the rate of several a minute. They are allowed to touch the Lingam and offer their own worship most of the day. There are also periods of formal worship by priests. These times are noted under “Programmes” on the drop-down menu on the home page. Visit: bit.ly/vishwanathlive

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From Varanasi: Priests perform worship during a 3am abhishekam, held following the Ardra nakshatra—an auspicious time to worship Lord Siva


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