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How is it that a DNA coding system with only 4 bases can yield so many possibilities? Also, how many unique coding sequences can there be with a DNA code that is 8 base pairs long? Hint: 4^n combinations. I've gone through this in my textbook, but I don't understand how to get the answer for it.

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  • $\begingroup$ The title should be an actual, specific question. Also, homework questions are discouraged if you do not include an attempt to solve them (or at least some initial ideas). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 22:53
  • $\begingroup$ I agree, you should think about this, though I gave you an anwser which I hope will get you to the answer to your problem set. $\endgroup$
    – Xqua
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 0:53

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4 bases (A T C G) leads to 4 possible value per bit of information, which then leads to the formula: 4^n (n being the number of base). For the first part of your question regarding how can you have so much information, it has to do with n, as you increase the number of bases the number of different combinations increases exponentially. For a comparison, your computer stores information in a 2 value bit system (1 or 0).

If you plot the number of possibilities, you will see that DNA outpace computers very quickly, as an exponential of base 4 will go faster (2*2 = 4, 4*4 = 16, already at 2 bits you have 4 times as many possibilities)

DNA VS computer bits

With that in mind, you can compute the number of possibilities for any given number of bits (or bases in your case).

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