What’s the Weight of all the BitTorrents in the World?

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Computers store data as 0's and 1's in their circuitry, utilizing voltages. Voltages have mass so all data held in this fashion everywhere on the planet actually adds up to weigh something in the physical world. So exactly how much does all the BitTorrent traffic in the world weigh? Give or take, 0.06 millionths of an ounce.

bittorrent math

An interesting article has been published about some research which aimed to find out how much all the data sent through the internet on an average day would physically weigh. So if we can find out the weight of the bits which make up a piece of information when it is assembled in a computer’s memory, as the article says, we’re halfway to figuring out the weight of the Internet and a small step away from finding the weight of all BitTorrent traffic. From the article;

“Inside a typical computer’s memory, the thing that remembers if a given bit should be a 1 or a 0 is a capacitor. This is a component on a chip (typically) that is capable of holding a small amount of electrical charge. Charge up a cell’s capacitor and it represents a 1. Uncharged, it represents a 0. The memory’s capacitors are so small that they each require only about 40,000 electrons to charge up. That’s a really small amount: Some 5.7 x 1018 electrons flow through a 100-watt lightbulb every second.

Now let’s look at a typical e-mail, such as some text and a Microsoft Word attachment—like when we sent draft versions of this article home to ponder the problem overnight. Such an e-mail contains about 50 kilobytes. Because there are 8 bits in a byte and 1,024 bytes in a kilobyte, that e-mail is composed of 409,600 bits. Not all of those bits are going to be 1s—that would be a pretty boring e-mail message! On average, about half of the bits will be 1s and half 0s, so that’s 204,800 1s that have to be stored, requiring a total of about 8 billion electrons. One electron weighs 2 x 10-30 pound, so a 50-kilobyte e-mail weighs about two ten-thousandths of a quadrillionth of an ounce, about the weight of 21,000 lead atoms. That may sound like a lot, but in fact it’s a tiny amount—an ounce of lead contains about 82 million quadrillion atoms.”

The researchers then went on to speak with an expert on internet traffic who states that total internet traffic is a brain-twisting 40 petabytes – a 4 followed by 16 zeros. P2P file-sharing traffic takes 75% of this total at an impressive 30 petabytes, 59% attributed to transferring video files and 33% music files.

The entire internet weighs 0.2 millionths of an ounce and although torrent traffic amounts to a massive 12 petabyte, it weighs in at just 0.06 millionths of an ounce.

Give or take ;)

Next Week: How Many Azureus Frogs Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb?


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