Did you know that your Kindle would weigh more with books than a brand new one? As astonishing as it sounds, digital data does have a physical presence, since it essentially is comprised of electrons – a physical reality.
Which takes us to our main question, what is the internet in terms of mass? How much would the unfathomable and uncontrollable amount of data uploaded on the servers would weigh?
All the chats, emails, videos, pictures and websites etc. make the internet hugely complex to estimate and control. But a YouTuber “Vsauce” tried to get to the bottom of this using nifty albeit rough estimates. He starts with the fact that a brand new Kindle would weigh 10 ^–18 less than a Kindle full of books. Although the number is very small – so small that the weight of Kindle changes 100 million times more times when it is fully charged – but it still signifies that data does physically weigh.
Taking it up a notch, there are around 75 to 100 million servers operating, working on 40 billion watts of electricity. We know that 1 Ampere of electricity is equal to 10 to the 18th electrons per second, thus a simple multiplication leads us to the estimate that the internet is about 50 grams of electrons in motion – weight of a large strawberry! This estimate only includes servers, and if you take into account the chips in personal computer; the values get 3 times larger! This estimate was made by a University of California professor, John D. Kubiatowicz. So next time you eat a strawberry, you can think of it as eating the internet in its entirety!
Watch the video below, where VSauce makes all these calculations:
The YouTuber then starts his own calculation, which began with an estimate that around 8 billion electrons are required to store 1 email of 50kb, which weighs around two ten-thousandths of a quadrillionth of an ounce! Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google once estimated that the internet contains about 5 million terabytes of information. Not taking into account the energy required to transfer, the data itself weighs about 5 million terabytes, doubling every 5 years approximately. To give you an idea, if 5 million Terabytes were printed on paper, it would weigh 6.12395672* 10^1o US tons or 5.55556008* 10^10 Metric Tons! In comparison, the Earth Weighs 6.61386787 × 10^21 US tons or 6* 10^24 kg; so that’s a lot of information!
Since we know the mass of a single electron and we know the number of electrons needed to make a KiloByte, the YouTuber concluded that collectively the internet weighs 0.2 millionths of an ounce – equal to the smallest possible grain of sand!
Although all of these are mere estimates, it makes you wary of the interesting fact that whenever you post or upload something on the internet, you are increasing its weight little by little! And hey, if you are a bit overweight, you can now always say it is because you are smarter and thus, your brain is heavier!
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