How Much Does the Internet Weigh?
Benazir Elahi Munni
According to Russell Seitz says the internet weigh about 50 grams, which is the weight of a standard sized strawberry. What does it mean? And how do you measure information?
Information inside a Kindle:
Starting from smaller units, let’s say a kindle. If we put the novel, say, Gatsby on the kindle, would it gain weight? We store information on flash drives and on kindles it is stored in binary. The physical existence of that binary is evident because floating gate transistors are charged by electrons. Electrons have mass. According to a professor at Berkley, a kindle full of books will increase in weight by about 10 to the negative 18 grams. It is an overwhelmingly miniscule number. What is interesting is, when we charge the battery of a kindle full, it will gain 100 million times more mass than it does when filled with books. The exact numbers are still quite unpredictable because our scales that we have made only measure to about 10 to the negative 9th grams.
Time to move onto bigger units. The reason Russell Seitz came up with his measurement was because the internet is composed of 75 to 100 million servers operating to make the internet work. 40 billion watts of electricity equal about all the servers we have and we also know that an Amp is about 10 to the 18th electrons per second. Now that we know the weight of an electron we can calculate that the entire internet is actually about 50 grams of electrons in motion. According to Seitz if we want to include the chips in personal computer along with all the servers, the number’s about 3 times larger.
Mass of All the Information:
Let’s look at the calculation from another angle. It’s a calculation of the energy contained in the actual information and not of the energy it takes to serve the internet. The e-mails, videos, pictures, if we store them all together, how much will they weigh? The answer is 8 billion electrons; it takes about this many electrons to store an email. Let’s not assume that it’s a huge mass because in reality it means that one email only weighs about two ten-thousandths of a quadrillionth of an ounce. But the internet has not only emails but all sorts of things. To know how much it weighs altogether we have to first ask the question of how big the internet is. Although it is difficult to calculate that, Eric Schmidt, then- CEO of Google said that the entire internet contains about 5 million terabytes of information but he also said that Google only indexed 0.004% of it. So the information on the interne itself is about 5 million terabytes. As we know the number of electrons it takes to form a single byte and the mass of an electron, we can figure out the internet collectively only weighs .2 million of an ounce. So everything you have seen on the internet, photos, videos, websites, emails, everything is collectively held within an amount of mass about the size of the smallest possible grain of sand.