A Not So Weighty Issue

David Byrd : Byrd's Eye View
David Byrd
Chief Marketing Officer for ANPI

A Not So Weighty Issue

First, I want to remind you that we have understood energy to have mass or weight for years. E=mc2 is the currently accepted truth of that. Professor John Kubiatowicz, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, noted that storing new data involves holding electrons in a fixed place in the device's memory. And that keeping those electrons still takes energy, approximately one billionth of a microjoule per bit of data. Therefore, filling a Kindle’s 4GB memory would increase its weight by an attogram or one billionth of a billionth of a gram (0.000000000000000001).

In a previous blog, I discussed the amount of data forecasted to be transmitted over the Internet but little did I know there were estimates as to the weight of the Internet. I discovered a YouTube channel, vsauce, where its creators/contributors used the information provided by Kubiatowicz to determine/estimate the weight of the information stored on the Internet. After estimating the number of servers, amount of data and, perhaps, another factor or two, the Internet was determined to weight 1.763698099034336 ounces or 50 grams.

Apparently, in an effort to make these numbers more real for people, vsauce equated this weight to one strawberry. As a foodie, I would say that a strawberry is a poor measure of weight. I have seen varying sizes of strawberries and would never suggest using them as a weight standard. However, try using these common items to hold the weight of the Internet or 50 grams in your hand:

  • Ten nickels
  • 50 one dollar bills
  • One large egg minus the shell (a bit messy to hold)
  • Eight and a third teaspoons of salt (a bit less messy to hold)
  • 33 and half popsicle sticks

My personal favorite is 50 grams of caviar. At least after the exercise I would have something interesting to eat.

I did consider estimating the weight of a Broadvox or an IBM but decided it would be “fruitless”. So, let me conclude with this tidbit. Only 50 grams may be the weight of the electrons making up the Internet but the amount of energy is no small matter. That’s around 40 billion watts or the equivalent of…

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