I certainly used to get things this way when I worked in the lab - plasmids anyway. I wouldn't say it was utterly reliable. I think the iGEM biobricks were shipped similarly last year? I know our team couldn't get any of them to work.
I do remember seeing someone from RIKEN holding up a book of clones at a conference some years ago.
would appear to be the reference
RNA is pretty tempermental stuff to work with, I doubt very much you could get away with doing that on filter paper.
A mini prep is a method of purifying plasmid DNA from the rest of the
cell, including genomic DNA. There are different methods of doing
this. Most commercial mini prep kits use a silica resin to bind the
plasmid. There is a long list of methods for doing this. One is the
detergent lysis that you mentioned. A few others involve alkaline
lysis, boiling lysis, and polyethylene glycol. For a more complete
list, check out the table of contents of chapter 1 in "Molecular
Cloning" by Sambrook. Amazon will let you preview it...
Also, the terms Midiprep and Maxiprep are basically the same thing as
Miniprep except they refer to doing it in larger volumes. Mini < Midi
Phenol chloroform extraction is a method for separating DNA, RNA and
protein. I wouldn't exactly call it "purification" since more steps
are required to prep your DNA or RNA before doing any downstream
reactions with them. It simply allows one to separate the DNA from
the RNA from the protein. Wikipedia does a decent job of describing
Ethanol precipitation is a method for concentrating nucleic acids and
polysacharides. Basically the ethanol (or isopropanol) allows the
phosphate backbone of the nucleic acid to react with cations in the
solution, causing it to precipitate. Usually this method is used
after separating the DNA from the RNA and protein (phenol chloroform
extraction) since both DNA and RNA will precipitate in an ethanol
precipitation. For example, say I wanted to PCR off of the genomic
DNA of my epithelial cells. After collecting the cells I would lyse
the cells, then do a phenol chloroform extraction to get the DNA, then
precipitate it with ethanol, dry it out in a vacuum, then resuspend
the DNA in a tris buffer. I would then use that solution as the
template in the PCR reaction.
Ammonium sulfate precipitation is used to separate different proteins.
Since different proteins precipitate in different concentrations of
salt, this can be used as a very crude purification method for a