07/30/2013 07:49 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Burning Man Project Aims To Broadcast The Human Genome With A Giant Laser (PHOTOS)


You know Burning Man is approaching when every crowdsourcing platform from Kickstarter to Indiegogo is saturated with bizarre installations destined for the Nevada playa. With merely a month to go before the desert art festival arrives, we've already seen a walking Geodesic robot, a 15-foot-tall brain controlled brain and a massive effigy dedicated to Facebook likes.

But the latest Burning Man concept is perhaps the most ambitious we've come across yet. Titled "Genome Laser," it aims to project individual human genomes onto the Black Rock desert sky, using what else but a giant laser.


Aspire Tower, the location of Genome Laser

Imagined by Matthew Raffery (aka Skippy), Vincent Rebers and Alex Housley, the project involves first encoding and then projecting 3.2 billion base pairs of various genomes, transforming the data into an impressive pattern of lights. Raffery and the team's resident high-speed genome expert, Dr. Jonathan Rothberg, need only $4,500 to make their art-meets-science dreams come true. They plan to use compression algorithms, custom-built pattern generation software and an existing 60W laser set atop Aspire Tower (aka Control Tower) to do so.

So whose genome will burners lay their eyes upon if the project comes to fruition? Well, potentially yours. A $2,000 donation buys you the chance to have your DNA broadcast into the unknown... you just need to give the Genome Laser team a week in advance to chart your individual code. (Hurry, this opportunity closes August 2.) But if you don't have that type of cash handy, festival onlookers will also be given the chance to send text messages to the laser team that will be translated into colorful displays when Burning Man launches.

"We are building Genome Laser because we can, and because we want to push the boundaries of our imaginations and give something amazing back to the Burning Man community," the group states on their Indigogo site. "This is [a] non-profit art project where 100% of the funds raised will be channeled directly into materials."

For more information on the lofty light show, check out the full campaign here. In other Burning Man news, the festival was recently granted a four-year permit, ensuring that Nevada can play host to 68,000 eager burners each year. Feel free to celebrate in the comments.

Burning Man 2012

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article we incorrectly spelled Matthew Raffery's name. We apologize for the error.