The Double Helix: Top Ten Amazing Facts about DNA!

The Double Helix: Top Ten Amazing Facts about DNA!

• You have an estimated 3 billion DNA bases in your genome.

• Your genome would occupy about 3 gigabytes of computer storage space or fill 200 1,000-page New York City telephone directories.

• It would take a person typing 60 words per minute, eight hours a day, around 50 years to type out all the letters of your genome.

• If unwound and tied together, the strands of DNA in one cell would stretch almost six feet but would be only 50 trillionths of an inch wide.

• If you unwrap all the DNA you have in all your cells it would reach to the sun and back over 600 times (100 trillion times six feet divided by 92 million miles).

• You have an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 genes, but they only make up 2-3% of your genome. We are just starting to understand the function of your remaining “junk”.

• Over 99.9% of your DNA sequence is the same as mine!

• You have 1-4% Neanderthal DNA; some of you may have more 🙂

• The first human genome was patched together over 13 years; today, your genome can be commercially sequenced in 2-3 months.

• Costs for sequencing the genome are falling exponentially: from USD 3 billion in 2001 to USD1,000 today and may fall by another factor of ten!

So, what’s in your genes?


Awesome enough for you? Want more? Check out:

Thanks to Dunken K Bliths for generating this wonderful gif!

Thank you Konstantin Makov , for finding this hypnotic image 🙂

#sciencesunday curated by Allison Sekuler and Robby Bowles .

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144 Responses to The Double Helix: Top Ten Amazing Facts about DNA!

  1. Yes, thank-you for posting Rajini Rao this is cool stuff. We really are so complex , more than we give ourselves credit for…….not simple humans !

  2. Jaz Emminger says:

    Is that a stairway to heaven?

  3. Rajini Rao says:

    You’re welcome, thank you! 🙂

  4. Tom Lee says:

    Good info as always. Science has no frontiere, human body is always a nature wonder. Never know enough and never can be learned enough!

  5. Rajini Rao says:

    Just the tip of the iceberg, Tom Lee 🙂 Hope your weekend is going well!

  6. Jaz Emminger says:

    She has a PhD in Brainiac!

  7. We human being are just amazing… aren’t we..?

  8. Rajini Rao says:

    Jaz Emminger , thank you for always making me smile 🙂

  9. Joe Repka says:

    Doesn’t rice have a larger genome or something?

  10. Wonderful piece of information rajini

  11. Robin Dunbar says:

    Have you watched the documentary Into the Fold….it references DNA and Origami…..worth watching.

  12. Jaz Emminger says:

    Rajini Rao Then my work here is done…LOL

  13. Jaz Emminger says:

    Robin Dunbar I been meaning to watch that.

  14. Thanks to Mr. Watson and Crick. And who can forget Rosalind Franklin

  15. Rajini Rao says:

    Joe Repka , most plant genomes are much larger than ours. Fish duplicated their genomes, I believe. So it’s not size that matters (once again!) 🙂

  16. Marika Patto says:

    Did you know your genes are not owned by you but by companies that discovered them? Over 20% of human genes are patented already. Why should you care? Because it means these companies control your access to testing for genetic illnesses f.ex.

  17. dinesh kapri says:

    thank you mam for giving such a wonderful information,

  18. ya its actually the Japanese flower Paris japonica who’s genmoe is 50 times bigger then humans and has the biggest genome yet.

  19. Very good one resume Thanks Rajini

  20. Hm. Given ~3 Gigabytes to build a human from scratch and ~16 GB of data to provide enough training material for them to learn from – I can more or less store the potential first 12+ years of a human life on an SDHC flash card.

  21. Rajini Rao says:

    Shame that, Marika Patto , isn’t it? The sequence of a gene belongs to all of us, it shouldn’t be patentable IMO. Okay for a construct derived from the gene, perhaps with tags or special modifications.

  22. Jaz Emminger says:

    Does that make me a shareholder and do I get dividends?

  23. Rajini Rao says:

    Exactly, Jaz Emminger ! 🙂

  24. Rickie B says:

    V int Rajini – lab technicians working under Crick & Watson? Do you have any intel or info on these, esp the young Israeli girl? Rsj

  25. Rajini Rao Interesting !!!

    Thank You Dunken K Bliths for making this hypnotic image and for other interesting and beautiful art works… ( :

  26. Rajini Rao says:

    Check out this post by praveen kulkarni on Rosalind Franklin, who took the original images of the double helix (Watson and Crick essentially appropriated her data/ideas), yet did not receive credit at the time (overlooked for the Nobel prize):

  27. Rajini Rao says:

    Nothing could be a more perfect match for my post than Freddie Mercury; great choice Konstantin Makov 🙂

  28. Thanks Rajini Rao – fantastic.

  29. Joan Hogol says:

    I’m sure I have more than 4 % of Neanderthal DNA 🙂

    Thank you for the post

  30. John Poteet says:

    Figures, my genome is smaller than my porn collection by a factor of four. Quantity of information tells us very little about quality.

  31. Rajini Rao says:

    I think you are right, Martin Sacha ! ( I think the calculation I cited was an extrapolation of this statement: One million bases (called a megabase and abbreviated Mb) of DNA sequence data is roughly equivalent to 1 megabyte of computer data storage space.

    Edit: yes, I figured that out, thanks so much! 🙂

  32. Dayrk Flaugh says:

    …and the 2-3 month time span for sequencing your genome has been significantly reduced thanks to new technology, right? Can’t it be decoded in 24 hours with interpretation done within a week?

  33. Rajini Rao says:

    Depending on priority that is place on your order, Dayrk Flaugh ! I’m guessing the commercial places have a queue of sorts, that’s where that estimate comes from. 23andMe and similar companies offer genotyping instead of complete sequencing, and for practical purposes this is just as useful. The genotyping is done by looking at what are called SNPs and should be much less work than whole genome sequencing.

  34. Ben Davis says:

    3 billion DNA bases, and each has 4 possibilities, *A*denine, *T*hymine, *C*ytosine or *G*uanine. Since there are only 4 options, you could store each as 2 bits = 6 billion bits = 750 million bytes = about 0.7 gigabytes, or 715 megabytes. Your genome could nearly fit onto a CD, and with a little bit of compression, probably could.

    It would only be 3 gigabytes if you stored each letter as a full 8 bits (and wasted 3/4 of your storage space). 😀

  35. 2 bits per base assumes they are independent and equally likely. However, each triplet of 3 bases (codon) encodes an amino acid, which could encode a total of 64 (4^3) possibilities. Of these, there are only 20 distinct amino acids encoded, plus 6 start/stop codons that indicate where protein transcription takes place.

    That means the information content of a sequence of 3 bases (assuming different start/stop encodings are meaningful) is log2(26), or 4.7 bits — therefore on average each base encodes 1.57 bits of information.

    This is an upper bound — just like looking at the information content of letters in the English language, not all sequences of letters are equally likely. Likewise, not all sequences of amino acids are equally likely, so the total information content of the entire DNA is lower than would be indicated from just adding up all the codons.

  36. Tony Bryson My wife and I had our genotype done by 23andMe. The information about disease risks was interesting, but not really anything I didn’t already know from family history (she didn’t know hers because she was adopted). However, the part I found particularly interesting is how you can find near relatives — we filled in a significant chunk of our family tree we ha no record of from finding 4th/5th cousins.

    Regarding risks, I really don’t see how we are going to avoid the future described in Gattaca. For me personally, I thought the value outweighed the risk. At the point insurance companies start getting access to it, that is when I will worry.

  37. Hannah Grimm says:

    Liz B Don’t forget Uracil!

  38. Rajini Rao thanks for using my images without reference

    To me…Please put my name and link to my profile in the info at the top…

  39. Tony Bryson Right now, there is legal protection against having your genetic information disclosed. However, since insurance is big business and big business has been buying whatever legislation they want these days, that can change of course.

  40. Thanks for the info. we always look for the design and its complications and say wow. and forget to thank the designer. how great is our God.

  41. Dunken K Bliths I’m not sure if you meant it this way, but you are representing yourself as a rude person.

    I agree that Rajini Rao should have referenced you in the post. It was very rude of this person not to do so.

    Nonetheless, when it comes to human interactions, two negative don’t make a positive.

  42. Dunken K Bliths there is Your sign at picture…

    hello,friend ( :

  43. Dayrk Flaugh says:

    Rajini Rao, I had to hunt for the article I read, but this is what I’m referring to:

  44. wow.. and all that just randomly came together through evolution huh.

  45. Konstantin Makov how you going, I have no problem with the way you use my images, as you always reference me in the text, it just that I get fed up with others using my images without reference at all, 99% of my animations I create using my own time and some take a few hours to create…the fact my name is in the image means nothing to lot of people as they think I have just copied the picture and put my name across it…like alot if these GIF sites do…and a few people on google+… anyway that’s enough of my moaning for the day, as it’s 6am and time for a Cofee… 😉

  46. Dunken K Bliths Bon Appetit. ( :

    And Good Mood for all Day…and full Life.

    Here is one man at least who knows that You have done this picture Yourself…( :

  47. Rajini Rao says:

    Hi Dunken K Bliths , I’ve edited the post and I do apologize if you felt that it was used without your permission. It so happened that this image was sent to me just for fun by Konstantin Makov . I tried Google image search to find the source but failed. I assumed, since your name was on the image itself, that credit was obvious. I should have searched for your name and then I would have found you on G+. If you scroll up the comments, you will notice that as soon as Konstantin noted that I used the gif, he tagged you in the comment and thanked you. I agree with you that people appropriate images without credit and that this is deplorable. However, if you look through my posts, you will notice that I am absolutely scrupulous in assigning credit. I hope you are mollified by the numerous mentions and free publicity that you are getting now!

  48. Rajini Rao says:

    Jake Palmer , a great observation: I should have listed this as one of the ten most interesting facts about DNA. Thanks for the shout out to mitochondrial DNA!

  49. Thanks Rajini Rao all is good, and appreciated the publicity… Great article by the way…

  50. Dunken K Bliths

    I think You had to say about article first…( :

  51. In Colorado we’re trying to match electromagnetic frequencies with the wave length of the Helix using super conductor technology. Hope it works.

  52. There’s a bug in your maths. If you have 1% of anderthal genes and I have 4% it is 3% difference, not 0.1% as you said.

  53. Amazing article Rajini Rao and congrats on being a “What’s Hot!” Google+’er!

  54. Craig Wilde says:

    And known to Man for several thousand years… Forgotten knowledge remembered.


  56. Nathan Jones says:

    another cool fact about the human body: If you took all the blood vessels in your body and laid them end to end, you would DIE

  57. Brad Barker says:

    Too bad my DNA sequence got a little corrupted and gave me high cholesterol and a fat ass…

  58. Brad Barker says:

    Oh yea and early hair loss! LOL!

  59. Eko Prasetyo says:

    Awesome. Now solve the problem of the telomeres!

  60. Joe Andretti says:

    And there is SO MUCH more to DNA than that… so much more than just the mapping of it and the stats. IT is the most fascinating molecule around for sure…

  61. Wow thats amazing how did you do that

  62. Paul Hsieh says:

    Where is the -1 button? These are, in fact, the least interesting facts about DNA. More interesting is that we share 98% with chimpanzees and bonobos, and we’re closer them then they are to any other living animal. Also more interesting is that our DNA actually hosts (inert) virus DNA in them. Also the chemicals that make up the DNA in humans is the same as those in a flower.

  63. During transcription the Single Helix is vulnerable to Dirty Transients (EMF)

    much like a rabbit out of its hole.

    nice image thank you

  64. Yash Oberoi says:

    This is amazing data with an image. I have shared this.

  65. Amazing Info thanks Rajini Rao

  66. I’m a geek and a nerd, so completely awesome man!

  67. If the DNA sequences are to be stored in typed form in books, and if each page of the book contained 1000letters and each book contained 1000 pages, then 3300 such books would be required to store the information of DNA sequence from a single human


  68. Ugh, if there are 3billion bases, that means there are 1.5 billion base pairs. Since there are only 4 base pair combinations, the base pairs could be contained in 2 bits, meaning a byte could store 4 base pairs. This means it would take only 357 Megabytes to store your genome. No where close to 3GB

  69. Rajini Rao Thank you for this post. I am so glad that such a nerdy science post can be What’s Hot on Google+ .

    What impresses me most about this post is that those who found flaws in it were able to point them out without being critical or judgmental.

  70. Jaz Emminger says:

    I prefer Trey Ratcliff’s philosophy of “Creative Commons Noncommercial”. As an artist myself, I want people to enjoy my artwork (though none of it is on public display) and know that people would, if they could, share it freely. My goal and desire is for people to appreciate my art, or others art as I do. If a person has a strong desire to find out the artist, then they will look for the artist. Demanding that someone give credit to the artist, whether it be themselves or whatever, doesn’t mean that people are going to be any more inclined to care. If they simply want to enjoy a piece of artwork it’s not going to matter to them how prominent the artists name is visible around the piece of artwork. They’ll simply view the art, appreciate it, and move on to other art. If someone was serious about either procuring the piece of art or the artists services, then they’ll find a way to locate the artist (provided it’s somewhat easily accessible and that doesn’t mean that the artist is prominently praised in every piece of art).

  71. Bryan Evans says:

    And “out of nothing, came everything…” (Silly notion). Just more evidence, of a Creator, who put it all together.

  72. Bryan Evans Evidence is what science is based on. Religion is based on a belief in magic.

  73. Malar Kannan says:

    Bryan Evans maybe you should get to know more about chaos theory.

  74. Bryan Evans says:

    Malar, Here’s what I do know: it is,indeed, chaotic, to think, out of nothing, came everything; it is chaotic, to hold to a theory, that where no brain existed for thought, that a brain would come forth, and make the bodies that we have; the brain that we have; the perfect tilt of the earth, to allow life, and so on.

    Forget the chaos that you speak of, as even the Heavens testify, that there is a Creator…..and HE is the brains behind it all, and not Chaos. Sorry, but Chaotic Theory is as believable as me putting a bunch of broken watch parts in a box, shaking vigorously, and finding a perfect Rolex in it, ready to wear.

    Am I to believe that these 3 billion databases referenced here, are just from Chaos? And where no brain was,now one appears? Now that,my friend takes more faith, than I’m prepared to believe.

    Even the “Great Minds” can’t seem to answer my question, “Where did the something we refer to, originating out of The Big Bang”, come from? IT HAS TO HAVE AN ORIGIN. Name the Creator,of the origins, of it all.

  75. Josh Freeman says:

    Interesting that (whatever sized space it can actually be stored in) your body contains 100 trillion copies of your genome. I’d say, good redundancy but we really need some sort of off-site storage.

  76. Bryan Evans I actually believe there is a God. And I believe that he created the Universe. (How? Science can explain that)

    But I don’t use religion to deny any aspect of science. For example I think that Creationism is nonsense; I believe in Evolution.

    And my belief in God doesn’t require evidence . I understand that there is no way to prove that God exists. Or disprove it. That’s why religion is also called Faith .

    I am able to separate science from religion. Science has worked for the last half millennium; to deny its efficacy is to deny reality.

  77. Jaz Emminger says:

    Holy crap I just rolled my eyes out of their sockets from the last few posts…

  78. Jaz Emminger says:

    Anyone that uses “faith” or “believe/belief” as a foundation or substitute for knowledge or the scientific process…

  79. Jaz Emminger Really? You should see an ophthalmologist about that.

  80. Jaz Emminger says:

    Other than a few floaties, I think my eyes are fine.

  81. I have faith that science can answer our questions. I believe that science is the best way to understand how the Universe works.

  82. Jaz Emminger says:

    Because when one calls themselves a “believer”, it is generally understood that they mean they’re a believer in science…

  83. I can say, i know alittle more than I did a couple of minutes back. Thanks

  84. Mh Miton says:

    Enjoy all of corner of your Life.

  85. DNA – One of many marvel of the Creator.

  86. “You have an estimated 3 billion DNA bases in your genome” — wheat has a much larger genome than that!

  87. MK Marita says:

    yeah, Very Nice Presentation….

  88. thankyou so much.i think all people are important.

  89. Gaurav Bisht says:

    can u post on genetic cloning

  90. Mitul Patel says:

    well can u get d best detail of dis thing

    i hv got very big interest in same……pl

  91. Ansar Ahamad says:

    I think that you are good in biology

  92. satish kumar says:

    thanks for this wonderful information.

  93. Amazing facts. Love to read it. I’m just curious. So, no omnipotent thing creates this amazing DNA? It’s just created randomly via evolution?

  94. Over 99.9% of your DNA sequence is the same as mine!

    And still, there are people that think they’re better than others, while in fact, we’re rather the same.

  95. Rahul Joshi says:

    Interesting stuff! Are you saying that nowadays our genome can be 100% sequenced? And that our understanding of this is only 4%? I’m wondering what all benefits/possibilities one can expect by “getting sequenced”.

    NZT rings a bell 😛

  96. its ok but i have doubt that it is in me coz no progress in life lol

  97. Rajini Rao says:

    Thank you to Steven Sudit for showing us how that 3 GB value can be brought down further by compression algorithms tailored for the genome sequence. “English text can be compressed to 10% of the original, depending. But, according to, encoding a genome at 1.56 bits per base, which is 78% of the original. So, instead of 750MiB, more like 575MiB. This does not take advantage of delta encoding against a standard human genome.” Thanks also to Martin Sacha Ben Davis John Tamplin .

    Stefen Roebke , according to the Human Genome web site, there are 3 billion base pairs, although they sometimes use the term bases, which is admittedly confusing.

    Note that the 3GB calculation is cited in that link too! 🙂

  98. And 0,1% made the difference, but is only the start of the difference. When we walk in our lives, we make that difference greater or lesser ?

  99. many of these are incorrect.

  100. Keith Old says:

    To Willy could you please explain your comment, and provide correction with fully backed up references in peer reviewed format. Thank you.

  101. Matt Kuenzel says:

    Rajini Rao Someone needs to write something to view long comment streams (like this one) so they are intelligible …

  102. Rajini Rao says:

    Matt Kuenzel , I’m afraid smart people stay away from long comment streams to avoid the endless notifications that ensue..especially when the comment is “nice” or “hi” 🙂

    That said, there was at least one interesting thread here on data storage which actually corrected the number cited on the official human genome (govt.) site. There is also the Neanderthal DNA story that one could follow up on…

  103. Matt Kuenzel says:

    Rajini Rao I’m thinking of a way to better visualize/read the stream, for instance, by keeping each commenter’s comments in one row or column for continuity and by visually connecting the conversations among small groups (people who use +Name to respond to each other) that become interlaced with other comments.

  104. Rajini Rao says:

    That would be awesome, Matt Kuenzel . Here I was restricting my hopes to nested comments, which get quickly messed up anyway. We need an option on top to sort comments…by keyword or +Name perhaps?

  105. Matt Kuenzel says:

    Rajini Rao By keyword or name would be very helpful too. Also there would a little clapping sound when popping up a comment that has been given +1s !

  106. Rajini Rao says:

    LOL, what sound would you associate with a share?

  107. Thats amazing, interesting…thanks for sharing dear Rajiji !!!

  108. Richard Healy A bit of a simplification 😛

  109. The best estimates put it at 2.5 billion bases, however that only takes up about 71.25 mb because of the way it’s coded.

    For my info see my answer to this Quora question:

  110. Rajini Rao says:

    Alex Moore , we cannot “translate” the genetic information into amino acids for storage because we would lose information. Since the code is redundant, once translated, we would have lost the specific codon. Why would we care? Because not all codons are utilized the same way. Some are translated faster because the adaptor for that codon (tRNA) is more abundant. Rare codons would cause the ribosome to stall and slow down protein synthesis. That’s why highly abundant proteins exhibit “codon bias” so that they zoom through translation faster. For example, GGG, GGT, GGA and GGC all code for Glycine, but GGT (or GGU in the RNA) is the preferred codon. These preference differ with organism, so two types of yeasts may have differing preferences. Also, the vast majority of the DNA is noncoding, so it would make no sense to translate it and store it as codons. There again, the specificity of the sequence is in the bases, not in codon. That specificity governs what protein factors bind to DNA (e.g., to turn on or off genes). But, it was a good (no doubt, original) idea at first glance 🙂

  111. Rajini Rao I did not know that, thank you.

  112. Rajini Rao says:

    You are welcome, you must be one awesome 18 yr old 🙂

  113. kiran kumar says:

    from a fan of the double helix thank you for this glorious fact and extra links.

    nice to know 0.1% chemical change is all it takes to make dumb people into smart people

  114. Rajini Rao says:

    Well hello there, Letha McGarity . I was wondering if you were on a historical Science tour 🙂

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