Eat The Strawberry
November 5, 2011 6:16 PM   Subscribe

How Much Does The Internet Weigh? (SLYT)
posted by shoesfullofdust (41 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I dunno, but I wouldn't wanna tow it.
posted by jonmc at 6:17 PM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This video makes no sense. The amount of energy to store an amount of information != the amount of energy to run the webservers that send it to you.

I'd be very interested in a video that used the phrase "information theory" (in a useful way) to compute mass.
posted by DU at 6:25 PM on November 5, 2011


I would be very interested in an estimate of the weight/composition of the servers involved in this obviously subversive activity. Electrons do seem to be apolitical. Their hosts on the other hand...
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:30 PM on November 5, 2011


your electrons are too fat.
posted by The Whelk at 6:33 PM on November 5, 2011


That was interesting, but why did he have to keep popping up like that?

Also it reminded me of one of my favorite movie intros of all time - the Weight of Smoke
posted by mannequito at 6:36 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


6. At least 6.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 6:39 PM on November 5, 2011


7 now
posted by The Whelk at 6:40 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


This video makes no sense. The amount of energy to store an amount of information != the amount of energy to run the webservers that send it to you.

That's why he gives two different values.
posted by empath at 6:44 PM on November 5, 2011


The important thing isn't how much it weighs. What metters is how it carries itself.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:44 PM on November 5, 2011


it pissed me off when he dropped that strawberry
posted by facetious at 6:45 PM on November 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Never heard that Raleigh story before, but it doesn't hold a candle, if you'll pardon the expression to this:
He grew a willow tree and measured the amount of soil, the weight of the tree and the water he added. After five years the plant had gained about 164 pounds. Since the amount of soil was basically the same as it had been when he started his experiment, he deduced that the tree's weight gain had come from water. Since it had received nothing but water and the soil weighed practically the same as at the beginning, he argued that the increased weight of wood, bark and roots had been formed from water alone. However, this "deduction" is incomplete, as a large proportion of the mass of the tree comes from atmospheric carbon dioxide, which, in conjunction with water, is turned into carbohydrates via photosynthesis.
posted by DU at 6:49 PM on November 5, 2011


I weigh like 1700 times as much as the internet!

must be the junk food
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:54 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could some knowledgeable person comment on the "Kindle weighs more when charged" and "Kindle weighs more with books loaded" claims?

If a battery contains more electrons when fully charged, where do the electrons go when the device is discharging?
posted by jcreigh at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting vid.

So yes, it is true....the internet does make you look fat.

Gotta stop going to all those foodie sites.
posted by lampshade at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2011


Obligatory
posted by gyc at 7:06 PM on November 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Make sure it's been demagnetized before you weigh it, preferably by Stephen Hawking himself.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:08 PM on November 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


He said that the size of the internet was once
estimated to be 5 million terabytes...?
That seems like a very low estimate.
I have half a terabyte just on my home computer.
posted by quazichimp at 7:11 PM on November 5, 2011


No one has actually weighed the Internet because the Internet doesn't scale.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:11 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


How did the Internet get so heavy? It kept taking byte after byte.
posted by twoleftfeet at 7:19 PM on November 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


It's getting so fat it can hardly fit through the series of tubes.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:24 PM on November 5, 2011


it pissed me off when he dropped that strawberry

It pissed me off that he didn't pick it up and finish eating it.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:52 PM on November 5, 2011


My question is, why was he reporting this from the holodeck?
posted by Diablevert at 7:56 PM on November 5, 2011


If a battery contains more electrons when fully charged, where do the electrons go when the device is discharging?

Dingdingding! We have a winner.

The whole argument as presented is bogus from start to finish. Flash EPROM aside, the vast bulk of the information accessible via the Internet is stored on hard disks as patterns of magnetic field orientation i.e. electron spin; a piece of disk surface holding a 1-bit has tbe same mass as it would when holding a 0-bit.

Even a flash EPROM does not end up with a net negative charge when loaded with information. It's all about electron position, not number.
posted by flabdablet at 8:00 PM on November 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


Flagged for use of non-metric units and neglecting to name drop Avogadro.
posted by benzenedream at 8:33 PM on November 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's a scientist out there who is trying to measure the weight of human consciousness using similar methods..

No kidding.

Sleep tight.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:41 PM on November 5, 2011


Also, fyi, the electrons are dissapated as heat or radiation, usually of the electromagnetic persuasion.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:41 PM on November 5, 2011


electrons are dissapated as heat or radiation, usually of the electromagnetic persuasion

Sorry, but this is completely wrong.

Energy can leave a system as heat or radiation, but electrons only ever leave or enter as electrons. And unless they're accompanied in their travels by other charge-carrying particles of opposite charge, they must cause a difference in the system's net charge by doing so.

What happens when you plug in your cell phone's charger is that some of the energy carried by electrons in the mains wiring is transferred inward across the cell phone's system boundary, causing a rearrangement of the way charge is distributed inside the system, manifested mostly as chemical changes within the battery; that rearrangement constitutes potential energy on which your cellphone can subsequently draw. There is no difference between the net charge on your cellphone before and after battery charging.

You might be able to change the net charge on a cellphone by rubbing it briskly on your sleeve. You'd know if you'd succeeded by whether or not you could then get a spark to jump from the phone to something else.

Yes, it's unfortunate that the word "charging" is used to describe both of these quite different processes.

See also.
posted by flabdablet at 10:17 PM on November 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ugh. This video is lame. He's putting numbers on things without even really thinking about it.

First of all, flash drives. He assumes, for no reason that an 'empty' kindle has all it's flash fields zeroed out. But there's no reason to assume that's true. It could very well be that they're all ones, and thus 'filling' the kindle with information would actually reduce the weight.

The other problem with this is that the physical amount of electrons in various devices varies by a huge amount. A hard drive built in 1980 probably has a much lower amount of information per unit of surface area. And yet the way that information is stored is completely different. I'm not sure how the 'mass' changes when a hard drive's magnetization changes.
Even a flash EPROM does not end up with a net negative charge when loaded with information. It's all about electron position, not number.
I looked it up and that's not true The transistors in floating gate transistors do in fact store electrons (or I imagine they could store electron gaps as well)

Then he talks about the number of electrons being used on the internet... the idea being he's trying to weigh the physical amount of electrons being used to power all the servers on the net? This makes no sense, because you're not counting the mass of the energy on all the routers and hubs. And you're not counting photons in fiber optic links or cellular links for that matter.

So yeah. This is bogus. It's one thing to say "if you took all the information on the internet, and put it on a recent flash chip, it would weigh between X and Y, depending on how you estimate the total data" But you don't know how it's stored. And without looking at how much of a mass change there is on a hard drive, you really have no idea.
What happens when you plug in your cell phone's charger is that some of the energy carried by electrons in the mains wiring is transferred inward across the cell phone's system boundary, causing a rearrangement of the way charge is distributed inside the system, manifested mostly as chemical changes within the battery; that rearrangement constitutes potential energy on which your cellphone can subsequently draw. There is no difference between the net charge on your cellphone before and after battery charging.
True, but the battery still has more mass after a charge. 1 watt hour is about 40.06 picograms, so if the device uses one watt and runs for an hour on a charge, it should weigh about 40.06 picograms more after a charge.
posted by delmoi at 12:04 AM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your momma...

...I got nothin'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:46 AM on November 6, 2011


(And stuff on TOR should be measured by the grams of scar tissue that'd need to be burned into your brain to make you forget it.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:47 AM on November 6, 2011


My question is, why was he reporting this from the holodeck?

A hollow deck weighs less.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:49 AM on November 6, 2011


You would expect some change in the mass of a hard disk with information - if I out together two magnets that are aligned it'll take me more energy than to put them together in opposite alignments since the poles will repel or attract. And that energy in principle could be measured as a mass difference.
Likewise I expect that even if an individual gate is negatively charged the positive charge the electron left behind isn't going to be far off and the mass difference of your chip isn't going to be simply the mass of the electrons in the gate but a result of the difference in energy from the charge separation.
posted by edd at 1:53 AM on November 6, 2011


I looked it up and that's not true The transistors in floating gate transistors do in fact store electrons

Sure, but the existence of that little chunk of negative charge pushes other nearby electrons away, causing a balancing positive charge nearby. The floating gate is effectively one plate of a very small capacitor, with everything on the other side of the insulation barrier being the other plate.

If you draw a boundary around the flash chip as a whole, the number of electrons present inside that boundary does not depend on the states of charge of its floating gates. All that charging or discharging the floating gates can do is move electrons around inside the boundary. That means any calculation of the mass of the stored information that depends on the mass of the electron is a bogus calculation.
posted by flabdablet at 4:20 AM on November 6, 2011


So... the Internet weighs the same as a strawberry. It is growing exponentially, roughly in keeping with Moore's Law, doubling every 18 months or so. The strawberry weighs 50g, so in seven years or so the Internet will weigh in at around a kilo.

You know what else weighs the same as an Internet that weighs a kilo? A duck.

I think we have the Singularity's ETA. But it may not become what we think.
posted by Devonian at 4:28 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, you're saying Ray Kurzweil is made of wood?
posted by flabdablet at 4:56 AM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


edd, you move in scientific circles. Have you ever encountered a balance sensitive enough for direct detection of the mass difference between fully charged and flat states for a typical cellphone battery?
posted by flabdablet at 5:17 AM on November 6, 2011


"Well, let's say this Twinkie represents the normal amount of sarcastic energy in the Internet. Based on this morning's sample, it would be a Twinkie... thirty-five feet long, weighing approximately six hundred pounds."
posted by blue_beetle at 5:38 AM on November 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


flabdablet: I'm not really in the relevant circles, but no. I can't imagine there are scales that sensitive around.
posted by edd at 7:08 AM on November 6, 2011


I wonder how much the confusion in my brain from watching this video weighs. My head does feel kinda heavier now.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:36 PM on November 6, 2011


Why the fuck did he start expressing things in terms of ounces? *shakes fist* Americans!!!! (do average americans even know how much an ounce is?!)
posted by beerbajay at 2:22 AM on November 7, 2011


do average americans even know how much an ounce is?!

Of course. It's the measurement we use to explain weight less than a pound. It's extremely common when buying meat, cheese and drugs, so you know American's know what's up.
posted by pazazygeek at 8:28 AM on November 7, 2011


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