Student cracks DNA code to take home $10,000 worth of bitcoin

CoinHive
At the 2015 meeting of the World Economic Forum, European Bioinformatics Institute researcher Nick Goldman set a challenge with a three-year time limit: Decode a DNA sequence in order to gain access to a key that would unlock a digital wallet. With the deadline coming up on Monday, January 29, it seemed that no one would claim the prize — until Goldman sent out a reminder on Twitter.

The tweet captured the attention Sander Wuyts, a 26-year-old Ph.D. student studying at the University of Antwerp. He requested one of the vials of DNA that Goldman had handed out at the WEF meeting, and once he received it, he set about cracking the code.

Working alongside his colleagues, the computational microbiology student used the genome sequencing tools available via his university to make a play for the prize, according to Motherboard.

The process Goldman used to encode the information as a DNA file saw him rewrite a text document in base-3. Using zeroes, ones, and twos, he could map the data to the four nucleobases: Guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thymine.

Nine files were encoded, encrypted with a keystream — a random series of characters intended to keep the plaintext message hidden — that was supplied alongside the fragments. When Wuyts successfully decoded the message, he was presented with the key to unlock the digital wallet.

Claiming his reward, he found the logo for the European Bioinformatics Institute, a drawing of James Joyce, and one bitcoin.  This bounty was worth around $200 when the task was set, but its value has since swelled to $10,000. The fact that the challenge would have expired just five days after his victory definitely played into Wuyts hands’ when it comes to the amount of money he’s set to receive.

Wuyts will apparently use some of his winnings to thank the colleagues that helped him and will pour the rest back into his research. Meanwhile, the fact that the key was successfully decoded demonstrates how DNA storage might be used to great effect. According to Goldman, it’s a particularly safe way to store keys since not everyone has access to sequencing software — and since it takes a matter of days to read the data, it can protect investors against their tendency to sell in a panic.

Gaming

New ‘Battlefield V’ patch gives Nvidia’s ray tracing support a chance to shine

‘Battlefield V’ is the first game to use Nvidia’s ray tracing support, now available with the RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti graphics cards. The feature can, in an ideal scenario, make the game look better, but the performance hit may not be…
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Killing Eve'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Computing

Changing file associations in Windows 10 is quick and easy with these steps

Learning how to change file associations can make editing certain file types much quicker than manually selecting your preferred application every time you open them. Just follow these short steps and you'll be on your way in no time.
Computing

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.
Computing

Edit, sign, append, and save with six of the best PDF editors

There are plenty of PDF editors to be had online, and though the selection is robust, finding a solid solution with the tools you need can be tough. Here, we've rounded up best PDF editors, so you can edit no matter your budget or OS.
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, and it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Computing

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.
Mobile

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.
Computing

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?
Deals

These Raspberry Pi 3 bundles will cover everyone, from coders to gamers

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a low-budget computing platform capable of doing just about anything. We rounded up a handful of the best Raspberry Pi 3 bundles to get you started on a variety of DIY projects.