Don Sherfick

Weighing the Internet: some very light reading

Filed By Don Sherfick | June 01, 2007 8:22 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, You Gotta See This
Tags: Al Gore, Discovery Channel, Internet, weight

As I continue to ponder who to have Decaf and English Muffin with and how they might react to the presence or absence of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" on the latter (margarine and decaf are not a viable combination, or so I'm told), I see this morning where someone has gone where no one has dared (or much cared) to go before: determining how much the Internet weighs.

In this Discover Magazine article the author outlines an approach to do just that: put the Internet itself on the scale. Not, mind you, the enormous weight of all the hardware (including the free printers they include when you buy anything from a laptop to a singing dishwasher), but just the actual information the Internet contains and transmits.

Yeah, yeah...I know what you're thinking: How in the hell do you weigh information? Simple: you put it on a scale....duh! Haven't you ever heard anyone reply to your own running-off-at-the-mouth by exclaiming: "That's too much information"? How did they know? Can you spell: B-A-T-H-R-O-O-M S-C-A-L-E? I jumped off of mine quickly this morning when I saw the dial spinning upward out of control.

But I digress. The Discovery item carefully analyzes how many electrons it takes to produce a single measurable "1" or "0" in the digital river, and then, after making an informed estimate of the total amount of these electrons in E-Mails, viewed websites both naughty and nice, and everything else, comes up with all of 0.2 millionths of an ounce. That's the weight of the smallest grain of sand.

I heard once that Al Gore claimed to have invented the Internet, but given the above I don't give much weight to the story. But I do understand he's doing something about the information he's seen on his own bathroom scale, too.


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