Math in the Natural Sciences

Math in Biology

How many bases are in a human’s genome sequence?

There’s a good reason why computers are so important to biologists working on the human genome. The amount of data is staggering, and would take scientists generations to analyze without the benefit of computers. For example, it would take about 9.5 years to read out loud (without stopping) the three billion bases in a person’s genome sequence. This is calculated on a reading rate of 10 bases per second, equaling 600 bases per minute, 36,000 bases per hour, 864,000 bases per day, and 315,360,000 bases per year.


Human DNA contains about three million base pairs. Each base pair is made up of G-C (guanine-cytosine) and A-T (adenine-thymine) bonds.

One million bases (called a megabase and abbreviated Mb) of DNA sequence data is roughly equivalent to one megabyte of computer data storage space. Because the human genome is three billion base pairs long, three gigabytes of computer data storage space are needed to store the entire genome. This includes something called nucleotide sequence data only and does not include other information that can be associated with sequence data. Because of such numbers, scientists working on the human genome are grateful they have computers on their side!


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